111 Violations of Journalists’ Rights Since the Start of the «Special Military Operation»

Photo: Journalists detained in St. Petersburg, 13 March, Avtozak LIVE

Since 24 February, the Journalists’ Union has counted 111 cases of violations of journalists’ rights linked to reporting on the «military operation» in Ukraine and events related thereto. These violations include detention of journalists covering protests, and 16 searches. Six detentions led to administrative arrests for periods ranging from 3 to 28 days. Two criminal cases have been filed.

Full Report in Russian

Police often treat reporters harshly during their coverage of protests, as occurred on March 13th in Moscow’s Manege Square, and many detentions of our colleagues have taken place with the use of force.

With the destruction of the larger part of Russia’s independent media and the exodus from the country of 150 journalists as backdrop, we find among the journalists detained since 24 Feb almost no employees of such media companies as TV Rain, Echo of Moscow, or others. A significant share of the detentions and arrests are carried out against smaller media companies that cover the protests: Sota, Avtozak LIVE, RusNews. Several colleagues have been detained two or even three times since the start of the «special operation.»

The geography of the violations in February-March 2022 covers 10 of the 15 largest cities in Russia, a range of oblast capitals and smaller towns. There are 23 cities on our list: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Ufa, Samara, Kazan, Nizhnyi Novgorod, Voronezh, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, Vladimir, Belgorod, Pskov, Arkhangelsk, Ul’ianovsk, Saratov, Kemerovo, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Shakhty, Novokubansk, Dzhankoi.

More than half of all incidents have taken place in the two capitals, St. Petersburg (31) and Moscow (27).

Repressive Practices

St. Petersburg: Group of journalists taken to Kronstadt

In the northern capital six journalists from various publications were detained on 13 March, despite the fact that they were all in official media vests, with certifications of their credentials and assignments. One group was taken to Kronstadt for «verification,» and later simply let go. On 16 March, the head of the Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for Petersburg and Leningradskaia Oblast, Roman Plugin, claimed that «During the protests, ‘scammers’ and provocateurs donned yellow press vests and interfered with the work of law enforcement.»

The Dеstruction of «Pskov Province» and Searches

On March 5th, law enforcement staged a riot in the editorial offices of Pskov Province (Pskovskaia guberniia): the pushed employees’ faces to the floor, destroyed equipment that was storing data—over 50 objects in total. The pretense for the seizure of the office was simply an anonymous complaint from a Pskov resident who allegedly received a «call to take part in an illegal anti-war demonstration» from an unknown address.

On March 18th home searches were conducted against chief editor Denis Kamaliagin and journalist Svetlana Prokop’eva. Kamaliagin had already fled the country by this time, but his parents’ house was searched. Police found Svetlana in the countryside, beat down the door and broke all the windows in her house. All equipment was broken. Svetlana is considered a witness in a criminal case about slander against the oblast governor. She said the following about it:

They were over 10 people. I was sleeping in my pjs under a blanket. Rapid response cops in masks busted in. They beat down the door, breaking it. They broke the glass on the veranda. They shouted, «on the floor, lay down!» They threw me to the floor using martial techniques, handcuffed me, knocked the phone out of my hands, grabbed it right away and began to rummage through it, looking for something. I did not manage to block it. They never even said on what grounds they were doing this search.

In all there has been no fewer than 16 such searches of journalists in Pskov, Samara, Kazan, Vladimir, Arkhangelsk, Kemerovo, and Crimea since 24 February.

Hunting Reporters Before the Demonstrations on 18 March

In Moscow and Petersburg law enforcement detained at least nine journalists on 18 March. They had gathered to report on the demonstration in honor of the «annexation of Crimea» and in support of the Russian army. In Moscow, two reporters from Sota—Ruslan Terekhov and Pavel Ivanov—were arrested for ten and three days respectively under article 19.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses (resisting an officer), allegedly for refusing to show their documents and the contents of their bags.

Administrative Arrests and Criminal Cases

At minimum six journalists have been arrested for 3 to 28 days since the start of the «special operation.» The longest sentence has been handed to a journalist from RusNews in Ekaterinburg, Matvei Golovanov, who was detained by police during a live broadcast from an anti-war demonstration. Despite his having press credentials on him, Matvei was charged under article 20.2 of the administrative code (Repeated violation of the established procedure for organizing or holding public actions).

In Kemerovo on 21 March the journalist Andrei Novashov was arrested. The Investigative Committee of Russia viewed his reposting of an article by the journalist Viktoria Ivleva on social media site Vkontakte as a violation of the new criminal article on fake news about the Russian army (paragraph 1 article 207.3 of the Criminal Code). The investigator also offered Novashov to «apologize in person to the armed forces,» but he refused.

On the evening of 22 March, a message appeared on the site of the Investigative Committee about the opening of a criminal case against journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov (part D, paragraph 2, article 207.3 CCRF) over the publication of a story on the shooting of a maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.