Sergey Mingazov (left), seen after he was released to house arrest on April 27, is one of several journalists targeted by Russian authorities in ongoing attacks on press freedom. (Screenshot: 7x7/Telegram)
Sergey Mingazov (left), seen after he was released to house arrest on April 27, is one of several journalists targeted by Russian authorities in ongoing attacks on press freedom. (Screenshot: 7x7/Telegram)

Russia puts Forbes journalist under house arrest, detains 2 others

Berlin, May 1, 2024—Russian authorities must drop legal proceedings against Sergey Mingazov, a journalist for the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, and detained journalists Konstantin Gabov and Sergey Karelin and ensure that members of the press are not imprisoned for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday. 

On April 27, a court in the city of Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East placed Mingazov under house arrest for two months as he awaits trial, according to news reports

Mingazov was detained the previous day on charges of spreading “fake” information about the Russian army by reposting on the Telegram channel Khabarovskaya Mingazeta reports about the massacre of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha in 2022, according to the journalist’s lawyer, Konstantin Bubon, who spoke to CPJ, and news reports.

If convicted, Mingazov could be jailed for up to 10 years under Russia’s criminal code, which was amended after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to include lengthy sentences for spreading false news about the army.   

Bubon told CPJ that Mingazov’s case was directly linked to his journalistic work and authorities had seized the journalist’s electronic devices, as well as computers and phones belonging to his wife and children while searching his apartment, before taking him for further questioning. 

Bubon also said he had filed a complaint challenging the court’s decision to ban Mingazov from using the internet.

Charged for working for ‘extremist’ Navalny channel

Separately, on April 27, Russian courts placed freelance videographer Karelin, who has worked for The Associated Press news agency and German broadcaster DW, and Gabov, who has worked with Reuters news agency and DW, under pre-trial detention for two months, according to news reports

The general jurisdiction courts of Moscow said on Telegram that Gabov, who was detained in Moscow on April 27, was accused of participating in an extremist organization for preparing photos and videos for Navalny LIVE. The YouTube channel is run by supporters of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in prison in February. 

The courts’ Telegram post described Navalny LIVE as a platform for posting content for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, which Russian authorities have banned as extremist.

Karelin, who was detained on April 26 in the northern region of Murmansk, faces similar charges.

If convicted, the two journalists could face up to six years in prison each under Russia’s criminal code. CPJ was unable to determine exactly what materials the men were accused of producing.  

“We are deeply troubled by the persistent pattern of intimidation and legal harassment faced by journalists in Russia,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Russian authorities should drop the charges and immediately release Sergey Mingazov from house arrest, provide information on the charges against Konstantin Gabov and Sergey Karelin, and ensure that they are not prosecuted for journalistic work.”

The AP said that it was “very concerned” by Karelin’s detention and was “seeking additional information.” 

Charged for working for ‘undesirable’ Meduza

In a separate case, on April 23, a district court in the Russian-occupied Crimean capital, Sevastopol, in Ukraine, registered a case against exiled freelance reporter Anastasiya Zhvik, under Article 20.33 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences, for participating in an “undesirable organization” by publishing in the exiled independent news website Meduza, the journalist told CPJ via messaging app. 

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office outlawed Meduza as “undesirable” in 2023. Organizations that receive such a classification are banned from operating in Russia, and anyone who participates in them or works to organize their activities faces fines and up to six years imprisonment. 

Zhvik told CPJ that as a first-time offender and based on fines given to other journalists for similar charges, she expected to be fined about 5,000 rubles (US$54) if convicted.

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

CPJ’s emails to district courts in Khabarovsk and Sevastopol, and the Anti-Corruption Foundation seeking comment did not receive any replies.

Editor’s note: This text has been updated in the 14th paragraph to include Zhvik‘s exiled designation and clarify that the court registered a case against her.