Legal Case of the Week: Mediazona editor Sergei Smirnov sentenced to 25 days in prison

Week-ending 5 February 2021

Sergei Smirnov: photo source Ekho Moskvy

On 3 February 2021 Sergei Smirnov, editor-in-chief of Mediazona news outlet was sentenced to 25 days in prison for ‘repeated violation’ of the rules regulating public assembly. He was convicted on the grounds that he had retweeted a joke on Twitter that refered to his physical resemblance to a musician who had tweeted in support of a pro-Navalny protest rally.


Human Rights Watch, 3 February 2021: Today, a court in Moscow sentenced Sergei Smirnov, editor-in-chief of the independent “Mediazona” news outlet, to 25 days in detention for “repeated violation” of the public assemblies’ rules. His offense? Retweeting a humorous tweet about Smirnov’s physical resemblance to the leader of a Russian rock band. The tweet featured a picture of the rock artist, stating he was pro-Navalny, and contained the date and the time of the January 23 protest. The “repeated” nature of the violation was based on an earlier charge that Smirnov had attended a  peaceful protest held by fellow journalists in support of detained colleagues. Initially, police attempted to charge Smirnov with traffic interference during the January 23 protest, but had to drop it because he didn’t actually attend that protest. The judge rejected the defense motions to have the evidence examined, including a linguistic examination of the tweet in question.

RFE/RL, 3 February 2021: A Moscow court has sentenced Sergei Smirnov, the chief editor of the news website Mediazona, to 25 days in jail after finding him guilty of “repeated violations” of the law on mass gatherings. The Tverskoi district court announced its ruling on February 3. Smirnov was detained on January 30 near his home when, he says, he went out for a walk with his son. He was released shortly afterward but charged with violating the law on rallies. According to the investigators, Smirnov posted a statement on Twitter that contained elements of calling for unsanctioned rallies to support jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

The Guardian, 4 February 2021: The wife of a Russian website editor jailed for a retweet has denounced the conditions in which he is being held, as thousands of protesters remain detained in holding centres overwhelmed by a recent crackdown on supporters of Alexei Navalny. Leaked videos from the Sakharovo holding centre for immigrants near Moscow, which has been turned into a jail owing to the more than 10,000 arrests in the last two weeks since protests began against Vladimir Putin. “Look at this shit,” said one detainee, Maria Silantyeva, zooming in on an open toilet inside a cell where more than 20 young women were being held. “When I came in someone was doing her business.” The cells were meant for eight prisoners but many are holding double or triple that number. “There are no mattresses, people have been here for 36 hours,” Silantyeva said in the Instagram video. Many of the women wave as the camera passes them; some are eating sandwiches of cheese and sausage. In a caption, Silantyeva wrote: “I’m asking for maximum coverage. It should not be like this.” Another video, provided to the Guardian by the wife of Sergei Smirnov, the editor-in-chief of the Russian website MediaZona, which reports on the Russian justice system, showed 28 men trying to sleep in a cell meant for eight. Two to three men are stretched out on each bunk, which lack mattresses, while eight more try to sleep at a picnic-style bench in the middle of the cell. “They’ve had this conveyer belt [for arrests],” said Smirnov’s wife, Tatyana, in an interview. “There are so many people they’re not even considering who’s a protester, who’s a journalist … even if they make a mistake they figure they’ll just sit the sentence and then get out. They don’t see it as the end of the world.”

RSF, 30 January 2021: Russian journalists are being subjected to “preventive visits” and searches of their homes – and some others to criminal proceedings – ahead of a second round of demonstrations in support of jailed Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny tomorrow. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns these serious press freedom violations and urges the authorities to end the wave of harassment of the media that began after Navalny’s return to Russia on 17 January. In the wake of the pro-Navalny demonstrations on 23 January, police searched the home of Sergei Smirnov, the editor of Mediazona, a leading online source of reporting on police and judicial abuses, on 27 January and confiscated the hard disk of his computer.

Leave a Reply