Russian Journalist Tatyana Voltskaya threatened with Criminal Prosecution over Article about Coronavirus

25 April 2020

Author: Pavel Mylnikov

Source: Deutsche Welle

Photo: Facebook

Tatyana Voltskaya interviewed an intensive care doctor about the work of St. Petersburg hospitals and the shortage of doctors and ventilators in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.  Now the journalist is threatened with criminal prosecution.

Tatyana Voltskaya, a St. Petersburg journalist and poet, is threatened with prosecution under an RF Criminal Code article on fake news after publishing material about the work of Russian hospital intensive care units during the  COVID-19 epidemic caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.  On her Facebook page on Saturday, April 25, Voltskaya wrote that it is the result of an interview with a Petersburg intensive care unit doctor.  Among other things, her interviewee told how there are not enough intensive care specialists and ventilators in the large St. Petersburg hospitals, and that the doctors often physically don’t make it in time to help all the patients.

Voltskaya emphasized that, after the material was published, investigators decided to check up not on the head doctors but on the journalist. She does not rule out that they will conduct “searches with seizure of all digital equipment” in her home.

The journalist says, however, that she does not regret the interview:  “If we do not give voice to those people who, overcoming their fear, try to tell us the truth as they see it and understand it, then we will totally suffocate from smoke.”

The first criminal case in the Russian Federation for fake news about the coronavirus

The St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office brought the first criminal case in Russia for dissemination of false information about the coronavirus at the beginning of April.  It was based on a post by 39-year-old Anna Shushpanova on the social networking site “V Kontakte” about how, as described in the post, a patient with a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was discharged from a Sestroretsk clinic  to go home on public transportation.

The RF Criminal Code article on public dissemination of information known to be false about circumstances presenting a threat to the life and security of citizens carries with it a punishment ranging from a fine of 300,000 roubles to restriction of freedom for up to 3 years.  It has already drawn criticism from human rights defenders. 

In Russia almost 75,000 are infected

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has penetrated 210 countries and territories after its outbreak in China at the end of 2019.  The pathogen causing COVID-19 has been identified in more than 2.8 million inhabitants of the planet, and as a result of the illness, more than 195,000 people have died. The United States is in first place for the number of people infected and number of deaths. In Russia, as of April 25 there were 74,588 cases of the virus and 681 deaths.

The latest statistics about the spread of the coronavirus throughout the world prepared by the American Johns Hopkins University.

NB The original Russian-language version of this text stated erroneously that Tatyana Voltskaya is a ‘journalist and literary critic’. She is in fact a journalist and poet.

Translated by John Tokolish

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