Journalist Vladimir Panfilov, the creator and host of YouTube news program “Resume,” was detained in Russia in August 2022 on extortion charges. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.
Authorities in the western city of Oryol detained Panfilov on August 2, 2022, according to news reports. On August 4, a court in Oryol ordered the arrest of Panfilov on charges of extortion until October 1, according to media reports.
Artyom Prokhorov, who runs a local news website Orlets—which often reposts “Resume” programs—was also detained and charged with extortion. Orlets posts much of its content on its Telegram channel.
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 Panfilov and Prokhorov 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. Panfilov and Prokhorov both denied the charges and appealed their arrest, the reports said.
Orlets founder and chief editor Viktor Zyryanov told CPJ via email on October 4 that Panfilov and Prokhorov “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 collaborating 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.
On August 26, a court in Oryol ordered Panfilov and Prokhorov to be placed under house arrest until October 1, according to media reports. 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. On September 27, another court extended their house arrest until December 2, media reported.
Zyryanov told CPJ that Panfilov complained about his health in court and has back pains.
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.