European Federation of Journalists

Russia must stop the persecution of journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva

Picture credit: JMWU.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today reiterated its call for Russian authorities to drop the terrorism charges brought against Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva. Her trial is scheduled to begin in Pskov this Monday, April 20, behind closed doors.

Svetlana Prokopyeva, a Pskov-based stringer for the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian service and the Echo of Moscow news radio station, is being investigated for comments critical of Russian authorities in relation to a suicide bombing in 2018.

While hosting a show on the Pskov affiliate of Echo of Moscow on 7 November 2018, she discussed a suicide bombing attack in Arkhangelsk in October, when a 17-year-old detonated a homemade bomb inside a local Federal Security Service building. Prokopyeva said on-air that the bomber was “a teenager who grew up under Putin’s rule” and that “a ‘ruthless state’ had raised someone who saw violence as the only path”.

On 20 September 2019, she was formally charged with publicly justifying terrorism, under Article 205.2(2) of the Russian criminal code. If found guilty, she could face up to seven years in prison.

More than 150,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to the lawsuit.

“The Russian government, like any other government, should recognize and respect the role of the media, journalism and commentary. Journalists are often called upon to comment on current events, as Svetlana Prokopyeva did. That is her job, her duty and her profession,” said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård.

“We are outraged by the legal proceedings against Svetlana Prokopieva. Svetlana is being prosecuted for doing her job. She has committed no crime. She just did her duty. The EFJ calls on the Russian judiciary to drop the charges and compensate Svetlana. These lawsuits are an intolerable act of intimidation against a journalist who just commented on the news. Svetlana must be cleared by the courts and compensated. We will continue to follow her case closely,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

The EFJ joined again the Russian Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union (JMWU) in calling on the Russian authorities to stop misusing terrorism legislation to silence journalists.