29 Apriul 2021
Journalists Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin, and Natalya Tyshkevich have been charged with involving minors in protests on the basis of a video that called for an end to intimidation of students and schoolchildren
Source: Memorial Human Rights Centre
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines, considers Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin, and Natalya Tyshkevich political prisoners. They are being prosecuted to end their activities as independent journalists and critics of the current government, as well as intimidating society as a whole and preventing citizens, and especially young people, from exercising their inalienable political rights.
We demand the immediate release of the journalists and that those responsible for their unlawful criminal prosecution be brought to justice. We also demand that all charges of ‘involvement of minors in protests,’ initiated against peaceful protesters, journalists and politicians without any grounds, be dropped.
- What is DOXA and what are the charges against its editors?
DOXA is the most well-known student publication in Russia. The project was launched in 2017 at the Higher School of Economics. However, by 2019 DOXA had lost the support of the university because of its coverage of political topics and criticism of abuses both at the Higher School of Economics and at other Russian universities. Since 2019 DOXA has been a fully independent publication.
According to the Investigative Committee, the crime of DOXA’s editors was that, on 22 January 2021, the day before a rally in support of Aleksei Navalny took place without official permission, they posted a video entitled, ‘They can’t beat the youth – DOXA’s editors appeal to students and schoolchildren.’ In the video the journalists demanded that the authorities stop threatening opposition-minded schoolchildren and students with expulsion and expressed support for the young people. On 26 January 2021 the journalists deleted the video at the request of Roskomnadzor, a request that had no basis in law.
On the morning of 14 April 2021 searches were conducted simultaneously in the editorial offices of DOXA and the apartments of its editors Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin and Natalya Tyshkevich, after which the four were taken to the headquarters of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. They were interrogated and charged with ‘involving minors in commission of acts endangering the lives of minors on the Internet’ (Article 151.2, Part 2, paras ‘a’ and ‘c’, of the Russian Criminal Code). The maximum penalty under this article is three years’ imprisonment.
The judges sitting in Basmanny district court agreed to the humiliating request by the investigators not only to prohibit the defendants from using the Internet and communicating with each other before the trial, but also from leaving the house between midnight and 11:59 pm. On appeal, Moscow City Court, after receiving 7,385 personal sureties, relaxed the pre-trial restrictions and allowed Aramyan, Gutnikova, Metelkin and Tyshkevich to go outside their homes between 8:00am and 10:00am.
- Why does Memorial consider DOXA’s editors political prisoners?
Immediately after Navalny’s arrest and the launch of a campaign of solidarity supporting him in early 2021, a wave of repressive measures, unprecedented in the history of modern Russia, against Navanly’s associates and supporters, as well as against those who participated in protests across the country, unfolded.
According to OVD-Info, over 11,000 people were arrested on 23 and 31 January and 2 February 2021 during peaceful mass protests demanding his release. More than a thousand people were jailed for offences under administrative law. More than a hundred activists and protesters were prosecuted under 12 articles of the Russian Criminal Code.
A criminal case for inciting minors to take part in the 23 January 2021 protests was initiated in Moscow. We know of other prosecutions for offences under the same article in Murmansk, St. Petersburg and Vladivostok.
Memorial has examined the video in connection with which DOXA’s editors have been charged and concluded that the journalists did not encourage school children or students to commit crimes or dangerous acts. On the contrary, the editors advised the young people not to be afraid of unlawful intimidation on account of their political views and to set up student associations and media outlets, i.e. to exercise their universally recognised human rights. The video did not urge the young people to take part in mass public events.
We condemn the repressive measures unleashed against supporters of the opposition. We consider the accusations of involving teenagers in protests, participation in which is, allegedly, dangerous, to be absurd. In fact, just as in the equally absurd ‘sanitary’ prosecutions for breaching sanitary and epidemiological rules, the investigative authorities have arbitrarily criminalized any call to participate in peaceful protests or to show solidarity with protesters.
The suppression of all extra-systemic self-organisation, as in the case of the prosecution of the DOXA editors, is aimed at stopping grassroots activity that is outside the control of the authorities. However, it is also intended to demonstrate to the public that social and political activity without official approval is dangerous for those involved.
A more detailed description of the case and the position of Memorial Human Rights Centre are set out on our website.
Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply Memorial Human Rights Centre agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.
- How to help
You can support all political prisoners by donating to the Fund to Support Political Prisoners of the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners via PayPal, using the e-wallet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove