Russia: Journalists swept up in crackdown on anti-corruption protesters

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As thousands of people took to the streets across Russia on 12 June 2017 to protest corruption, journalists were among those detained by police, according to verified incidents reported to Mapping Media Freedom.

The Russia Day demonstrations followed calls from the Foundation Against Corruption, an NGO headed by political opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. Rallies took place across the country, with the largest gatherings taking place in Moscow and St Petersburg.

According to OVD-INFO, an independent police monitoring website, at least 1,769 people were detained in 31 cities throughout the day. Rights groups also registered serious human rights violations. The largest number of arrests took place in St Petersburg where roughly 700 people were detained. Around 200 of the detainees were minors who were released after their parents intervened. Russian authorities can hold individuals for 48 hours before they are arrested.

Another 150 demonstrators were sentenced to administrative arrest of up to 15 days in detention, and yet others received fines of between 10,500 and 15,000 rubles (€150 to €250).

Journalists were threatened and detained throughout the country.

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Index on Censorship monitors press freedom in Russia and 41 other European area nations.

As of 31/07/2017, there were 361 verified reports of media freedom violations associated with Russia in the Mapping Media Freedom database.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

My 30 hours in detention

As an independent journalist, I was one of the media professionals detained by police at the St Petersburg rally. I was taken to a police station and held with 40 other people for 30 hours before being fined 10,500 rubles (€150) for participating in an illegal demonstration. I am appealing the court’s decision.

— Andrey Kalikh, Mapping Media Freedom


In Moscow, Andrey Poznaykov, a reporter for the Echo of Moscow radio station covering the demonstrations, was detained while he was taking a break on a cafe’s terrace. Though he showed officers his press card, he was taken to a police van and released soon after.

Other detainees in Moscow include: Novaya Gazeta photographer Evgeni Feldman, a correspondent for Open Russia Nikita Safronov, independent photographer Georgi Malets and independent journalist Denis Styazhkin. Aleksei Abanin, a photographer for the RTVi, wrote later that a police officer had threatened “to break my camera and break my face if I continue to photograph.”

Ignacio Ortega, a Moscow-based reporter for Spanish news agency EFE, was also detained while he was reporting from the anti-corruption rally. Officers held Ortega in a van with dozens of other individuals before bringing him and the others to a police station. Ortega was released after he identified himself at the station, EFE reported.

Blogger Yan Katelevski said that he was physically assaulted by police officers while being detained: “They dropped my press card, kicked me and hit me with batons, grabbed me by the throat, and beat me on my head while I was on a police bus”.

In Sochi, Andrey Kiselyov, a correspondent for Radio RFE/RL, was detained and issued him a warning to not commit any further legal violations.

In Makhachkala, Dagestan, Caucasian Knot journalist Patimat Makhmudova said that unknown people had broken her camera during the 12 June protests.  Additionally, Bariyat Idrisova and Saida Vagabova, correspondents for the independent Dagestani news website Chernovik were assaulted and prevented from filming at the same anti-corruption rally, Chernovik reported.

In Saratov, an unknown person attempted to prevent filming by correspondents from the Open Channel, a local TV station. The unknown individual approached the TV crew, asked whether everything was OK and then tried to run away with the camera.

Among those who were detained were David Frenkel, a contributing photographer for Kommersant and Mediazona, and Ksenia Morozova, the journalist for local website, who were both covering the rally. Both journalists were detained despite showing their press cards.

Frenkel was soon released while Morozova was taken to the police station, where she was kept overnight before facing a trial for “public order disturbance”. After spending 35 hours in the police station, Morozova was brought to the court for trial. She was sentenced to 10 days administrative arrest and a fine of 15,000 rubles (€250). The court argued that Morozova had no “accreditation” to work at the protest.

The Russian Union of Journalists (UJ) released a statement condemning the harsh police actions taken at the anti-corruption rallies across the country. The UJ demanded the release of all detained journalists and sent an appeal to the Chief Police Department of the Ministry of Interior. The head of the journalists’ union Pavel Gusev stated in his interview that the police had disturbed journalists from accomplishing their professional duties.

The St. Petersburg Ombudsman Aleksandr Shyshlov also issued a press release condemning police actions during the rallies where  “hundreds of people were detained, among them minors, media representatives, observers and passing civilians who did not commit any unlawful actions”.


Mapping Media Freedom

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Memorial win the Index 40th Anniversary award

Index singles out The Research and Information Centre Memorial, which logs the brutal repression suffered by millions in former Soviet countries, for their continued dedication to guaranteeing freedom of information. The centre has demonstrated a fierce commitment to protecting human rights. It not only chronicles the crimes of the Stalinist period, but monitors current threats against those who speak out against injustice. Memorial’s remarkable archive includes letters, diaries, transcripts, photographs, and sound files. Individuals with first-hand experience of Stalin’s terror and the Soviet gulag have donated documentation they had hidden during this brutal period.

The centre is a living tribute to the survivors of Soviet Russia, preserving documentation that many have tried to bury, and continue to conduct their work despite constant threats. In December 2009, a group of men from the Investigative Committee of the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office raided Memorial’s offices, confiscating hard drives and CDs containing its entire archive. The attack was condemned by activists and historians across the globe, and eventually all of the material was returned after a battle in local courts.

Memorial’s work is a vivid reminder of the vital and very real risk taken by those who speak out against repression. The award is particularly pertinent in Index’s 40th year. As we explore our own archive and its role in exposing international human rights violations, we are conscious of the often undervalued work of historians and archivists in keeping the memory of these violations alive.

The award was presented by Sir Evelyn De Rothschild, one of Index’s original trustees.


Irina Flige, Director of Research and Information Centre Memorial in St Petersburg accepting the award said:

Irina Filge

I thank you in the name of all Russian researchers, writers, teachers and museum specialists who are working on the tragic topic of the Soviet past

I am grateful for this opportunity to thank Index on Censorship and all our friends for the honour bestowed on the archives of Memorial St Petersburg on the occasion of Index’s 40th anniversary.

I thank you in the name of the Research and Information Centre “Memorial” in St Petersburg, which has created these archives and worked with them for more than twenty years. I thank you in the name of the whole “Memorial” community in Russia and beyond. And I thank you in the name of all Russian researchers, writers, teachers and museum specialists who are working on the tragic topic of the Soviet past and facing obstacles in their day-to-day work that are unknown to their colleagues in other countries.

I understand this Award for “Memorial” as a recognition of the fact that truthful and exhaustive information about the past is just as essential to freedom as truthful and exhaustive information about the present day, and that the concealment of historical documents, the impediment of access to such documents, the persecution of those who try to make such documents freely accessible (and this still happens sometimes in Russia) are just as unacceptable as the concealment of topical information about human rights violations today.”

Russia: Freedom of expression versus car racing

Russian authorities have been criticised for giving permission to a sports car federation to hold an event in Triumfalnaya Square, St Petersburg, on July 31,  the same day that opposition protesters had applied to use the square. Two weeks after the protesters applied to use the square it was announced that car racing would take place instead. Angered by this, hundreds of protesters arrived at the square on July 31 to be greeted by police. In total around 95 were arrested in similar protests across Russia, including well known Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov. Reports state that many of those arrested had facial injuries.