Union of Journalists and Mass Media Workers
7 July 2020
Over the past week, journalists have become regular heroes of criminal news: the attack at a polling station against our colleague from Mediazona, David Frenkel (1); the shameful conviction in the fake case brought against Svetlana Prokopyeva (2); the criminal case against the publisher of Mediazona Petr Verzilov (3); and now, the case opened against Ivan Safronov, formerly a journalist with Kommersant and Vedomosti (4).
Meanwhile, the criminal prosecution is continuing of Abdulmumin Gadzhiev, editor of the Dagestani newspaper Chernovik (5); and the three-year preliminary investigation into the attempted assassination of Igor Rudnikov, publisher of the Kaliningrad newspaper Noviye kolyesa, has been extended yet again (6). Investigations are ongoing into journalists writing about the Covid-19 epidemic in Russia (7), and a heavy administrative fine has been imposed on Petersburg journalist Tatyana Voltskaya (8).
We need to recognise the obvious: a campaign is under way to equate our profession with crime and to criminalise it. The authorities want to make the work of journalists look either shameful, or threatening.
We demand an end to the tortuous and false cases being brought against journalists in Russia. We support our colleagues who are today picketing outside the offices of the FSB – the special security service responsible for the persecution of our colleagues. We urge everyone who values freedom of speech, and journalism as a profession, to come together in their cities to protest against these unjust prosecutions and, in particular, the prosecution of our colleague Ivan Safronov.
Only together can we protect freedom of speech in our country!
(1) Journalist David Frenkel’s shoulder was broken by police when he was investigating allegations of electoral fraud at a polling station in St Petersburg on 30 June 2020 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ussia-journalist-david-frenkel-attack-police-video-mediazona-election-a9594351.html
(2) The case has been covered in detail by Rights in Russia. For the latest reporting, see https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-journalist-svetlana-prokopyev-verdict/30709068.html
(4) Ivan Safronov, a defence sector adviser and former journalist, was arrested on 7 July 2020 and charged with treason for allegedly passing secret information to the Czech authorities https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-53319545
Translation and notes by Elizabeth Teague