Journalist Artyom Prokhorov has been detained in Russia since August 2022 on extortion charges. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in jail.
Authorities in the western city of Oryol detained Prokhorov, who runs and reports for the local news website Orlets, on August 2, 2022, according to news reports. On August 4, a court in the western city of Oryol ordered the arrest of Prokhorov on charges of extortion until September 29, according to media reports.
Vladimir Panfilov, creator and host of YouTube news program “Resume,” was ordered detained until October 1 on extortion charges, as well, those reports said.
If found guilty, the journalists face up to seven years in prison, according to the Russian criminal code.
Orlets and Resume report on corruption, politics, and social issues in the Oryol region, according to media reports and a CPJ review of Orlets’ Telegram channel and Resume. Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor blocked Orlets’ website on March 28 for allegedly disseminating false information about the war in Ukraine, media reported.
Authorities have accused Prokhorov and Panfilov of extorting 100,000 rubles (US$1,610) from a local businessman in exchange for not publishing allegedly compromising information about him, according to those reports. Prokhorov and Panfilov both denied the charges and appealed their arrest, the reports said.
On August 26, a court in Oryol ordered Prokhorov and Panfilov to be placed under house arrest until October 1, according to media reports. On September 27, another court extended their house arrest until December 2, media reported.
Orlets founder and chief editor Viktor Zyryanov told CPJ via email on October 4 that he visited Prokhorov after he was transferred to house arrest and that he was physically “all right.”
“He was glad that he was transferred to house arrest after three weeks in the pretrial detention center, but on the whole, he was sad about the prospects, because he had no hope for a fair court decision,” said Zyryanov.
The journalists are not allowed to leave their homes, work, or use the internet, Zyryanov told CPJ, so communicating with them is possible only through their wives or by visiting their homes.
Prokhorov and Panfilov “were certainly prosecuted for their journalistic activities, because they were practically the last journalists in the region who wrote and said what they wanted to say,” Zyryanov told CPJ. “For both local authorities and law enforcement officials, they have long been a nuisance.”
Zyryanov said Panfilov had been cooperating with Orlets ever since its creation 12 years earlier. “Our outlet was constantly mentioned in his YouTube broadcasts, and the editors—including me—acted as speakers. In turn, we posted all of his broadcasts on our site,” he told CPJ.
In October 2022, CPJ called the Russian Ministry of Interior, but nobody answered the phone. CPJ emailed the press service of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office but did not receive any replies.