CPJ honored Mikhail Zygar, then editor-in-chief of the independent Russian TV station Dozhd, with its 2014 International Press Freedom Award. Here he speaks with The Associated Press in Moscow, January 30, 2014. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Russia added Mikhail Zygar, the winner of CPJ's 2014 International Press Freedom Award, to its wanted list. Here he speaks with The Associated Press in Moscow on January 30, 2014. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Russia issues arrest warrant for exiled journalist Mikhail Zygar

New York, April 9, 2024—Russian authorities must drop all charges against Russian journalist and writer Mikhail Zygar and stop harassing exiled members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

“The shameful issuing of an arrest warrant for Mikhail Zygar by the Russian authorities shows both their determination to intimidate journalists in exile and their fear of independent information,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Authorities must immediately drop all charges against Zygar, remove him from their wanted list, and stop prosecuting voices speaking out from abroad against their war in Ukraine.”

On Tuesday, media reported that the Russian Ministry of the Interior issued an arrest warrant for Russian journalist and writer Mikhail Zygar. He is a former editor-in-chief of now-exiled Russian broadcaster Dozhd TV (TV Rain) and a CPJ 2014 International Press Freedom Awardee.

On March 13, state news agency RIA Novosti and Telegram channel Baza reported that Zygar was charged with spreading “fake” information about the Russian army. Zygar told CPJ that the arrest warrant for him was based on this specific charge.

The charge against Zygar allegedly stems from a June 2022 post on the Russian social media platform Vkontakte about the massacre in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, according to Baza. If convicted, the journalist, who currently lives outside of Russia, could face up to 10 years in prison, according to the Russian criminal code. Zygar told CPJ that he did not write anything on Vkontakte and does not have an account on the platform. 

Since the start of their full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian authorities have been harassing several exiled journalists over their reporting on the war, including Zygar.

In late 2023, Russian authorities issued an arrest warrant for U.S.-based Russian-U.S. journalist and writer Masha Gessen after charging them [Gessen uses the pronouns they/them] with allegedly spreading “fake” information about the Bucha massacre. In early March 2024, Russia issued arrest warrants for Washington, D.C.-based journalist Tom Rogan and Latvia-based journalist Aleksandr Kushnar on unspecified criminal charges.

Russia held at least 22 journalists behind bars when CPJ conducted its 2023 prison census, making it the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists that year. CPJ’s prison census documented those imprisoned as of December 1, 2023.

Editor’s note: The fifth paragraph has been updated with information about Zygar’s lack of an account on Vkontakte.