News, Statements

Intimidation of journalists in Khabarovsk: detentions, fines, kidnappings

The Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union (JMWU) has addressed the Russian Investigative Committee, requesting to investigate the kidnapping of our colleague Sergei Plotnikov, a journalist and blogger from Khabarovsk. He was abducted by a group of unknown men in masks, beaten and subjected to pressure and death threats. Our organization is also asking for the support of our colleagues in Russia as well as in other countries. 

On Thursday, October 15, 2020, journalist of RusNews channel Sergei Plotnikov, also known as blogger SergeyNews, was abducted by hooded strangers, taken into the forest, physically assaulted and threatened with death. The kidnappers shot under his feet with firearms and demanded “cooperation”, without specifying with whom. They said that “the same thing will happen to every journalist“. 

This is not the first time that journalists covering the mass protests in Khabarovsk, which have been going on for four months now, have come under pressure from law enforcement officials. Quite recently, the Khabarovsk Central District Court fined a journalist from Newsader, Alexei Filimonov, 10,000 rubles for the false charge of “participation in an unauthorized action.” The conviction concerned a report that Alexei Filimonov made on the September 28th rally on the orders of the editorial staff. It should be noted that the journalist was arrested not on that day, but later, during the October 10 rally, which was violently dispersed by the anti-riot police (OMON). This is an obvious act of retaliation and therefore is nothing more than intimidation and pressure on the media and journalists. 

Earlier, employees of the “Center for Combating Extremism (Center E)” threatened Kristina Gritsayenko, a correspondent for the online publication “Aktivatika.” Gritsayenko had been under surveillance for several weeks. She claims to have received a call at 8 a.m. from a man who introduced himself as “Operative Ivanov” and invited her to the police station. Half an hour later, two agents of this “Center “E” were waiting for her at the entrance. They told her that the police had already filled three reports against her. At 11 o’clock Kristina arrived at the police station with a lawyer, but no one came out to meet them. 

The JMWU considers what is happening now in the region to be absolutely unacceptable. It is an outrageous burden on journalists and the media, a violation of journalists’ civil and professional rights. Our organization has addressed the investigative commission of Russia asking it to verify the facts exposed by media reports concerning the kidnapping of Sergei Plotnikov. We consider these acts to be crimes according to the following articles of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation: “beatings” (Article 116), “torture by a group of persons due to a prior conspiracy on the grounds of political or ideological hatred or enmity” (Article 117.2), “threatening death” (Article 119), “abduction by a group of persons due to a prior conspiracy” (Article 126.2). 

We demand that law enforcement agencies stop putting pressure on journalists and bloggers covering the protests in Khabarovsk Krai. 

The JMWU has also sought support from colleagues in fellow journalists’ unions – members of the European and International Federation of Journalists, and other journalistic and human rights organizations.