Russia: Press freedom violations August 2019
11 Sep 2019

Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project tracks press freedom violations in five countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Learn more.

27 Incidents

Senator’s security assaulted Ren TV filming crew

31 August 2019 – Ren TV reporter Evgeniya Mogilevskaya filed a complaint with the police against Irkutsk senator Vyacheslav Markhaev accusing him of an assault, Ren TV reported.

According to the reporter, she was interviewing the senator and asked him about his alleged ties with gambling businesses when an aide of the official started to push her and cameraman Klimkin away, trying to prevent them from filming. 

At the same time the private security of the senator started twisting arms of Klimkin and tried to grab his camera. Mogilevskaya tried to film it with her phone, when Markhaev himself grabbed and twisted her arm and released the reporter only after she pointed out that they were being filmed by security cameras.


Category: Physical Assault/Injury

Source of Violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Editor-in-chief of “MK in Peter” accused of pushing policeman with a baby pram 

29 August 2019 – Maxim Kuzahkmetov, the editor-in-chief of “MK in Peter”, was visited by child protection officers after a state-run local newspaper published a defamatory article accusing him of “pushing a policeman with a baby pram”, Lenizdat reported. 

Kuzakhmetov said he was amused by the speed with which the guardianship officers reacted to the fake article published on 21 August 2019 in the Ekateringofskiy Vestnik, while a more serious journalistic publication can’t get government attention that fast. 


Category: Intimidation; Offline Defamation/Discredit/Harassment/Verbal Abuse

Source of violation: Police/State security; Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party; Another media

Roskomnadzor blocks Krot website because of interview with stoic

29 August 2019 – Roskomnadzor, the Russian state media regulator, blocked the Krot website because it published an interview with stoic philosophy professor Massimo Pigliucci, Krot reported in its Telegram channel. 

The page containing the interview with Pigliucci, of City College of New York, was included on Roskomnadzor’s “black list” on 30 July on the basis of the law “About Information”. It is thought that the block occured because Pigliucci made comments on suicide: he mentioned that ancient stoics approved suicide and gave some examples of it. 

Krot said that they did not receive any warnings before the blocking and due to its use of https protocol, the whole website was blocked, not just one page. 

“We received no warnings, of course, but even if we did, there is no sense in talking to those who harass Russian people for love to Epictetus and Seneca. Due to this, we declare that we are not going to delete anything”, editorial team of Krot said.


Category: Legal Measures

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party 

Anti-LGBT group threatens St Petersburg journalist with murder

27 August 2019 – Anti-LGBT group Pila sent an email with murder threats to Vitaly Bespalov, a St Petersburg-based journalist, who is the editor of LGBT website Parni PLUS, Bespalov said in a Facebook post. 

Pila demanded Bespalov kill photographer Maxim Lapunov, who published the information about the tortures of gay men in Chechnya or pay 1 million rubles ($15,000); otherwise Pila threatened to kill Bespalov by the end of the year. 

The email also said that the murder of LGBT-activist Elena Grigorieva, who was killed in St Petersburg on 22 July 2019, was also ordered by Pila. 

Bespalov said that he tried to file a complaint about the email through a police website, but couldn’t do it due to system errors.


Category: Intimidation

Source of violation: Criminal organisation

Courts in Moscow barred journalists from covering trial on mass protests

27 August 2019 – Journalists were barred from reporting at the Tverskoy district court in Moscow for two days while trials of people arrested during mass protests against the disqualification of independent candidates for Moscow city parliament were taking place, MBH Media reported. 

The journalists were not allowed to enter the floor where the trial was going, instead they were forced to go down to the ground floor. An MBH Media reporter was told that the journalists can not enter the floor because of a “court decision”. 

The journalists were barred from covering the trial on the mass protests in the same way at the Meschansky and Presnensky district courts also in Moscow. 


Category: Blocked Access

Source of violation: Court/Judicial

Journalist summoned for questioning for video parody on Krasnoyarsk governor

27 August 2019 – Journalist Dmitry Polushin was summoned to the investigative committee because of a video parody of Alexandr Uss, the governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, in which Uss’ speech was matched with video from Bunker movie about Adolf Hitler, Polushin said in a Facebook post. 

According to the journalist, the Investigative Committee summoned for questioning not only him, but other people who reposted his video parody on the governor. The video titled “Movie and the Germans. Planning meeting at the governor Uss’s office” was made by Polushin and first published on 18 July on the YouTube channel KrasNews. The video, in which Hitler was scolding his generals, was matched with the speech of Uss scolding his aids because of the recent scandal with the region’s Accounts Chamber’s head Tatyana Davydenko, who was fired after the interview in which she revealed that Krasnoyarsk officials are not capable of tackling wildfires in the region. In 2018 fires caused damage of 4 billion rubles (over $60 million) in the region. 


Category: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation

Source of violation: Police/State security

Kisilevsk mayor accused local journalist of talking to the city residents “without permission”

26 August 2019 – Maxim Shkarabeynikov, the mayor of Kisilevsk in the Kemerovo region, accused Nataliya Zubkova, a reporter working for local online media outlet Novosti Kiselevska, of interviewing city’s residents without permission, Tayga.Info reported.

 “Recently, the gatherings of the residents happened more often, which were organised by an editor of online media outlet Natalya Zubkova…In violation of the federal law, she doesn’t notify the local government about public gatherings, therefore putting herself and the residents to a danger”, Shkarabeynikov said in his letter to the city prosecutor Alexey Trefilov. 

Zubkova was reporting on the city’s communal problems and interviewing residents of different districts. She was the first one who reported on such problems as an  underground fire near residential buildings. 

In February, around 200 residents of Afonino village came to meet her to tell her about charcoal dust in potable water. Police and ambulances were present at that meeting, which Zubkova believed was organised by the city government to show “the preparation for the public gathering”. 

Zubkova believes that the mayor’s demands are unlawful. 


Category: Intimidation; Blocked Access

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Mediazona reporter David Frenkel detained in St Petersburg

24 August 2019 – David Frenkel, a reporter and photographer with Mediazona, was detained in St Petersburg while covering a protests against the silencing of homophobic crimes, Mediazona reported. 

According to Frenkel, police initially told him that he was detained for jaywalking, but later in told that he was detained “for the propaganda of untraditional sexual relations”. Once at the police station, the journalist was formally charged with disobeying police, allegedly because he refused to go to a police van. 


Category: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation

Source of violations: Police/State security

Orenburg Election Committee files a complaint with police over a journalist’s phone call 

23 August 2019 – The Orenburg Election Committee filed a complaint with police over a journalist call, Echo Moskvy in Orenburg reported. 

A reporter for Echo Moskvy in Orenburg called Oxana Karnashenkova, deputy of the village parliament of Svetlisnkoye, introduced himself and told the deputy he would be recording the telephone conversation. At the end of the discussion, Karnashenkova asked the reporter to call her back to confirm some information. 

Karnashenkova said that she didn’t know who was calling her and said that the journalist said that he was a member of the election committee. She filed a complaint to the police. The election committee also asked the police to check the complaint. 


Category: Subpoena / Court Order/ Lawsuits

Source of violations: Police/State security; Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party editor-in-chief was questioned by police after the complaint from local deputy

22 August 2019 – Ekaterina Shaitanova, the editor-in-chief of local news agency, was questioned by police because of a defamation complaint from a local deputy Yana Shpak. 

That same day, published the second part of the investigation on redistribution of signatures between candidates for the post of head of the region, providing evidence that signatures for another candidate were illegally assigned to Shpak and her registration was therefore unlawful.

 “I explained [to the police] that I don’t see any signs of defamation, but see an excellent journalistic work”, Shaitanova said. 


Category: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation

Source of violation: Police/State security; Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

FSB colonel files third complaint against newspaper

21 August 2019 – Sergey Sorokin, a colonel with the State Security Service (FSB) filed a complaint against local newspaper Yakutsk Vecherny for the third time, Mediazona reported. 

Last year Sorokin twice filed a complaint against the newspaper to Roskomnadzor, the  Russian state media regulator, about the disclosure of his personal data: First, when the newspaper published a news article about Sorokin beating a pensioner; Second, when the newspaper published a news article on winning a lawsuit filed against the media outlet by Sorokin. 

This year Yakutsk Vecherny published an article about the pressure on the newspaper from law enforcement, mentioning Sorokin’s actions as one of the examples. Sorokin filed a complaint on the disclosure of his personal data again. After that, Vitaly Obedin, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, was summoned for questioning to Roskomnadzor. He called the incident “pure bullying” from the law enforcement authorities.  


Category: Subpoena / Court Order/ Lawsuits

Source of violation: Known Private Individual; Police/State security; Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

The death of Togliatti journalist investigated under “Incitement to Suicide” article

16 August 2019 – Police opened a criminal case under the article 110 of the criminal code of Russia (“Incitement to Suicide”) to investigate the death of Togliatti journalist Mikhail Kurakin, Volga.News reported. 

Kurakin, died on 17 July, leaving a note “I don’t know why, but seems like I have serious problems”. 

Kurakin was believed to be the author of Telegram-channel “Komitet”, which was publishing critical comments on the local authorities, business and law enforcement. 


Category: Death/Killing

Source of violation: Unknown

Novaya Gazeta reporter barred from reporting on Great Terror mass grave 

14 August 2019 – Employees of the state run Russian Military History Society attempted to expel Irina Tumakova, a reporter with independent Novaya Gazeta, from Sandarmoh forrest, where a mass grave containing victims of 1936–1938 Soviet purges  were uncovered, on the grounds that the journalist may have American citizenship, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Later the same day, when Tumakova was reporting from the scene, two men approached her, introducing themselves as a district policeman and a migration service officer. They said that they received a call about an American citizen being in the grave zone and asked Tumakova to show her passport. 

The journalist showed her Russian passport and was asked if she had a second citizenship. Tumakova answered that she had not and asked what would be wrong if she had. The men said there would be nothing wrong, however, they stayed at the scene and kept preventing Tumakova and two other journalists from the independent website 7×7 from doing their work, particularly barring them from taking photos of the graves. 

Earlier this summer, Russian Military History Society has started a new excavation in Sandarmokh, trying to prove that the mass graves were not of the victims of the Soviet political repressions of 1937-1938, as independent historians say, but Soviet prisoners of war who were shot by the invading Finns in 1941-1944.


Category: Blocked Access

Source of violation: Police/State security; Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Deputy governor of Khakasia sues media outlets for reporting on his conflict with his driver 

13 August 2019 – Konstantin Kharisov, the deputy governor of the Khakasia region, said that he filed a defamation lawsuit against media outlets that reported on a conflict with his own driver, Leninzdat reported. 

Kharisov didn’t specify what media outlets he sued. 

News agency Agentstvo Informatsionnykh Soobshcheniy (AIS) published an article saying that Kharisov’s driver kicked him of the state-owned car because of the official’s rudeness. Later the article was republished by other local media outlets. 

The mentioned driver at first said that media exaggerated the circumstances of the conflict. But later the government of Khakasia published a press release, saying there was no conflict at all. 

The head of AIS, Alexandr Bortnikov said that he is confident about the truth of the information about the conflict that the agency published.


Category: Subpoena / Court Order/ Lawsuits

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Dozhd ordered to remove article alleging state deputy had ties with criminal 

13 August 2019 – Independent broadcaster Dozhd was ordered by a court to remove an article from its website.

The Belgorod court ordered the removal of the piece, which alleged that state deputy Andrey Skoch had connections to criminal kingpin Shakro Molodoy. 


Category: Subpoena / Court Order/ Lawsuits

Source of violation: Court/Judicial

Roskomnadzor falsely accused Ekaterinburg local media of lacking age-restriction mark

12 August 2019 – The Russian state media regulator, Roskomnadzor demanded Ekatrinburg local media outlet It’s My City mark their articles with an age restriction marker, proving the lack of such markers with screenshots, in which the marker was obscured by Windows calendar, TJ reported. 

The founder of the media outlet, journalist Dmitry Kolezev said he is going to sue Roskomnadzor. 


Category: Subpoena / Court Order/ Lawsuits

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Chelyabinsk journalist was shot in the head from air gun

12 August 2019 – Yuliya Zyabrina, journalist with Cheyabinsk local newspaper Obshchestveniy Zashchitnik (Public Defender) was shot in the head with an air gun outside her house late in the evening of 8 August, Interfax reported. 

The journalist was hospitalised with the head injury. Zyabrina believes that the attack was connected to her professional activity. 


Category: Physical Assault/Injury

Source of violation: Unknown

State sponsored hackers organised a phishing attack on independent journalists

12 August 2019 – Journalists working for investigative media outlets The Insider and Bellingcat became targets of sophisticated phishing attack allegedly organised by the hackers with the Russian state security service, Roskomsvoboda reported. 

The attack with the use of ProtonMail service was confirmed by the administration of this Swiss protected email service. 

ProtonMail said the attack was unsuccessful. ProtonMail and Bellingcat believe that the hackers behind the attack belong to GRU, Russian state security service that was reported to have a special hackers division. 


Category: DDoS/Hacking/Doxing

Source of violation: Police/State security; Unknown

At least 24 journalists detained during mass protests in Moscow and St Petersburg

10 August 2019 – Ahead of the mass rally against the disqualification of independent candidates for local election, police broke into the headquarters of opposition leader Lyubov Sobol in Moscow and started a search, detaining all the journalists who were present in the offices. 

Alexey Korostelev, a reporter with the independent broadcaster Dozhd, said that police pushed him down to the floor and then made him and three other journalists stand next to a wall for about 2 hours. Among the detained journalists were Maxim Kardopoltsev and Ernest Arutyunov, who also work for Dozhd; Timur Olevsky and Sergey Korsakov, a reporter and a cameraman working for Current Time TV (a project of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty) and Anastasiya Olshanskaya, a reporter of MBH Media. All the journalists presented their press-cards and editorial assignments, but the police ignored them, taking away the journalists’ mobile phones and taking photos of their documents.

Police also raided the studio of YouTube-channel Navalny Live, forcing 10 media professionals to lay face down on the floor. Among the detainees were Alexey Shuplyakov, Egor Albitskiy, Alexey and Oleg Yaovlev, Alexandr Lukyanenko, Dmitry Nikolenko, Pavel Zelensky, Polina Arkatova and Olga Klyuchnikova. All of them were detained in the studio for 5.5 hours. Police seized their mobile phones and laptops, bank cards and documents. 

According to Navalny Live, Alexey Shuplyakov and the Yakovlev brothers were dragged across the floor, with one of them suffering an injury to their eye; Pavel Zelenskiy was taken ill during the interrogation. All of the detained Navalny Live employees were taken to a police station for interrogation and later released without charges.  

Anton Baev, a journalist with independent online media outlet The Bell, was detained for about an hour while covering protests in the center of Moscow and released after his documents were checked. Alexandra Sivtsova, a reporter with Meduza, said she was brutally pushed by a policeman while covering the protests.

Ekaterina Maximova,the head of the international desk at local broadcaster 360 Podmoskovie, was also detained at the protest and taken to a police department, despite her saying that she was not participating in the rally or covering it as a journalist, but happened to be there by chance. Maximova was asked whether she knows many foreign journalists working in Moscow and who of them support or criticise president Putin. After that, police offered to let her talk to a representative of Agora, a human rights organisation, but she said she was questioned again by some suspicious people in plain clothes. The head of Agora ater denied that the organisation’s representatives participated in the questioning.  

In St Petersburg, Ekaterina Khabidulina, a reporter with ZAKS.Ru and Novaya Gazeta, was detained while covering the mass rally, despite having a big armband saying “Press” and a visible press-card hanging from her neck. She was taken away from the protest to a police van, where policemen checked her documents and later released her. 

According to the Professional Union of Journalists and Media Workers, Lilit Sarkisyan, reporter with Novaya Gazeta and unnamed reporter with Kommersant were also briefly detained for a documents check and taken to a police van for a “prophylactic talk”.  

Polina Antonova, reporter of Forpost, was also detained while covering the protests.   

Category: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation

Source of violation: Police/State security

St Petersburg journalist assaulted, pepper sprayed 

9 August 2019 – An unknown individual assaulted photojournalist Georgiy Markov, hitting him in the head and using pepper spraying against him. 

Markov said he believes that the goal of the person who assaulted him was to intimidate him. Markov said the main told him: “‘So what would you do to me, f***ing journalist; we will find you all’”. 

The journalist said he decided not to file a report to the police, noting that he receives a lot of negative comments on social media, but no direct threats. The assault happened on the night before a Saint-Petersburg rally against the disqualification of independent candidates for local parliament.


Category: Physical Assault/Injury

Source of violation: Unknown

Factory director accuses local newspaper editor of extremism

9 August 2019 – Natalia Kuznetsova, editor-in-chief of newspaper Vestnik Goroda Otradnogo, told a state deputy that Andrey Kichaev, general director of local factory Remetall-C, was making allegations of extremism against her in retaliation for her paper’s coverage, reported. 

The paper had previously published a series of articles on environmental problems, allegedly caused by Remetall-C. 

Kuznetsova was told by police that Kichaev filed a complaint against her, accusing her of transferring money “to terrorists somewhere abroad”. Kuznetsova was summoned for questioning. Kuznetsova also said that the similar defamatory rumours were published by the local government-run newspaper Rabochaya Tribuna. 


Category: Intimidation

Source of violation: Known private individual(s)

Rosneft security service allegedly spied on Baza journalists

8 August 2019 – Independent media outlet Baza said it learned from its  sources that the state oil and gas corporation Rosneft’s security service was allegedly spying on Baza journalists, checking information on their computers daily and surveilling their phone calls and texts with the help of the latest technology provided by the state security services. 

Baza says its journalists have also noticed that their batteries were draining much faster than normal, experienced connection issues, and their VPN services started turning off randomly. Their sources mentioned that the surveillance intended to find out whether anyone had ordered a Baza investigation into head of Rosneft Igor Sechin’s latest real estate deals. 

In July, Baza published an investigation revealing that Sechin was building two new houses worth $270 million in the luxury village of Barvikha near Moscow. In a statement published on their website, Baza noted that no defamation lawsuit came from Sechin. “Their tool is provocations, but we’re ready for them”, the editorial board wrote.

The press service of Rosneft refused to comment on the accusations.


Categories: DDoS/Hacking/Doxing

Source of violation: Corporation/Company

St Petersburg media outlet Fontanka significantly amended report on campaign

7 August 2019 – Local website Fontanka significantly amended a report on a candidate’s campaign for governor, Porebrik.Media reported. 

The initial text was published on 6 August, describing the experience of reporter Maria Karpenko, who had worked as a promoter handing out leaflets on the streets about the  campaign, which is backed by the deputy governor Alexandr Beglov. On 7 August, the text was amended to remove mention of payments to “volunteers” for leafleting, as well as a direct quote from Beglov’s headquarters on state funds provided for the campaign. 

In the initial text, Fontanka said that it had obtained the document called “instructions” for promoters with explanations how to respond to residents’ questions, saying that two sources in Beglov’s office confirmed the document was original. In the later text, Fontanka said that the reporter did not have such a document and removed several quotes from those instructions, for example, the mentioning of opposition politician who was criticising Beglov and the mentioning of the road collapse due to heavy snow last winter and who the administration should be blamed for it. 

The name of the reporter also was removed from the text, which Porebrik.Media explains as a possible wish of the author herself as the result of the editorial changes she disagreed with. 


Category: Censorship

Source of violation: Employer/Publisher/Colleague(s)

At least eight journalists detained at mass protests in Moscow

3 August 2019 – Vladimir Romensky, reporter with independent broadcaster Dozhd, was detained at Pushkinskaya Square in the center of Moscow while covering a mass protest against the disqualification of independent candidates to Moscow city parliament, Dozhd reported. 

According to Romensky, he was detained when he gave a branded microphone to his colleague. Police searched the reporter’s backpack and found his accreditation and editorial assignment. Romensky, who had been taken to a police van, was released, but soon after he was detained again and taken to a police station. He was later released without any charges.

Elena Vanina, a reporter with independent business newspaper Vedomosti, was also detained at Pushkinskaya Square and taken to a police van. She and other detainees were taken to a police station and later released without any charges. 

Snob reported that its reporter Nikita Pavlyuk-Pavlyuchenko was also detained while covering the protests, he was released after showing his press credentials multiple times. Mediazona reporter Anastasia Yasenitskaya also said she was briefly detained despite showing a press-card.

Among other detainees were Dutch journalist Joost Bosman,MBH-Media reporters Alexandra Semenova and Alexey Stepanov, Baza reporter Petr Koronaev.  


Categories: Arrest/Detention/Interrogation

Source of violation: Police/State security

Tax inspection began after Dozhd conducted live coverage of mass protests

1 August 2019 – The tax inspectorate requested that independent broadcaster Dozhd provide income and expense statements, as well as documents confirming payment of income tax in 2016-2018. 

A photo of the request was posted on Facebook by Natalya Sindeeva, the general director of Dozhd, a broadcaster.

Sindeeva suggested in an interview with Mediazona that the check was not planned and may be connected to the live coverage of mass protests in Moscow. The protests were  against the disqualification of independent candidates to Moscow city parliament on 27 July. During that live coverage, policemen came to Dozhd studio to summon the broadcaster’s editor-in-chief for questioning.


Categories: Legal Measures

Source of violation: Government/State Agency/Public official(s)/Political party

Police search home of administrator of popular Mordovian social groups

1 August 2019 – Police searched the home of Roman Toder, the administrator of popular Mordovian Vkontakte public groups “Podsluchano v Saranske” and “Podslushano v Ruzaevke”, Idel.Realii reported 

According to Toder, the police did not show any documents and seized all his equipment. Toder believes that the extremism department of Federal Security Service (FSB) may have targeted him because of his professional activity on his Telegram-channels, where he also published articles by Otkrytaya Rossia (Open Russia) which is considered an “undesirable organisation” by the Russian authorities. 

“In those public groups, we write about everything, as we are not going to be patient. Just yesterday there was a post about the need to obtain permission to hold a rally in Saransk on pension reform. We write what will not be shown on TV and what will be kept silent otherwise. We also understand that this is pressure from the law enforcement. I was more indignant at the way they seized the equipment, in which there was also personal information, Toder was reported as saying.


Categories: Intimidation

Source of violation: Police/State security

Moscow court barred journalists from covering open trial on Civil Union

1 August 2019 – A Zamoskvoretsky district court in Moscow barred journalists from covering an open trial on illegal inclusion of the charity fund Civil Union into the list of foreign agents, 7×7 reported. 

The judge’s aide approached journalists and said there there would be no hearing today, but only “preliminary talk, during which attendees and journalists” are not needed. 



Categories: Blocked Access

Source of violation: Court/Judicial

SLAPPS: A Threat to Our Freedom of Expression and Our Democracy

Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) are brought by powerful and wealthy entities against public watchdogs in an effort to compel them to withhold or remove critical coverage, even if it is accurate and in the public interest. When SLAPPs successfully drive information out of the public domain, they can make it difficult to hold [...]

Belarus: the free press continues despite attacks

The chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists says reporting is harder than ever because of government crackdowns and war in neighbouring Ukraine

Another deadly year for journalists

Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh becomes the 17th journalist to be killed while doing her job this year

Index raises concerns over exclusion of journalists from UK Home Secretary’s Rwanda visit

Alert filed with Council of Europe over key media being unable to hold Priti Patel to account as she announces migrant plan

Comments are closed.