Moscow has angrily told the US embassy to “mind your own business” after Washington’s diplomatic mission raised concern about curbs on media freedom in Russia. Russia arrests media reporters on many grounds but namely for treason and justifying terrorism.
Russia arrests media reportersRebecca Ross, the spokeswoman for the US embassy, on Tuesday expressed concern about a clampdown on journalists in Russia.
Russia arrests media reporters for treason
A high-profile Russian journalist who became an adviser to the head of the space agency was detained Tuesday on charges of treason for allegedly divulging state military secrets, the country’s security service said.
Ivan Safronov, 30, worked for business outlets Kommersant and Vedomosti and was one of Russia’s most high profile and respected journalists reporting on defence. Moscow’s Lefortovsky court ruled to approve Safronov’s arrest for one month and 30 days, “until September 6,” a court spokeswoman said.
His arrest, on charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars, sparked an uproar among supporters, some of whom took to the streets of Moscow to protest.
Twenty people have been detained, according to OVD Info, which tracks detentions at political protests. Russia arrests media reporters
Safronov’s lawyer Ivan Pavlov said it was the first time in nearly 20 years that a reporter had been accused of state treason in Russia, adding the fate of independent journalism was now on the line.
Supporters took to social media arguing that the charges were a response to his reporting, which had ruffled feathers among the ruling elite.
Safronov’s arrest came after President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power for two decades, oversaw a controversial nationwide vote that allows him to extend his grip on power until 2036.
Russian reporter convicted for ‘justifying terrorism’
A Russian journalist on Monday was convicted on charges of condoning terrorism and ordered to pay a fine in a case that has been widely criticized as an attack on freedom of speech.
The case of Prokopyeva stems from a commentary she published in the wake of an October 2018 suicide attack, in which a 17-year-old Russian man blew himself up at the entrance of the office of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, in the northern city of Arkhangelsk. The attacker was killed and three FSB officers were injured.
In her commentary, Prokopyeva criticized repressive government policies, arguing that they leave little chance for the young people to express their discontent and drive them to despair.
Arrest after arrest of media reporters by Russia
“Watching arrest after arrest of Russian journalists – it’s starting to look like a concerted campaign against #MediaFreedom,” tweeted Rebecca Ross, a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
“Mind your own business,” the Russian foreign ministry tweeted late Tuesday.
Earlier that day the FSB security agency, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, arrested a respected former journalist, Ivan Safronov, 30, on suspicion of state treason.
His detention sparked an uproar among supporters and journalists who say his arrest is punishment for his coverage of Russia’s defence sector.
A member of Safronov’s defence team, Yevgeny Smirnov, has said the former journalist, who used to work for Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers, is suspected of cooperating with Czech intelligence since 2012.
The FSB investigators believe that the Czech intelligence acts under the guidance of the United States, Smirnov said.
● NEWS ● #meduza #ru #russia #IvanSafronov ☞ Journalism is not a crime ‘Meduza’ demands public access to the treason case against reporter Ivan Safronov https://t.co/UwooazmCAw— Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊) (@schestowitz) July 8, 2020
The FSB says that Safronov has collected confidential data about the Russian military, defence, and security and handed it over to the intelligence of a NATO member country.
On Monday, a reporter from the northwestern city of Pskov was fined nearly $7,000 for “justifying terrorism”, in a case that sparked an outcry.
Prosecutors had requested that Svetlana Prokopyeva be sentenced to six years in prison for a commentary about a bomb attack.
All major TV stations are under state control in Russia.
Journalists working for print and online outlets have recently complained about increasing curbs on press freedoms and pressure from the Kremlin.
GVS News Desk with additional input from AFP and other sources.