On Tuesday, 7 July 2020, FSB operatives detained Ivan Safronov on a charge of treason. Ivan is a former journalist for independent business media publications Kommersant and Vedomosti, and a current adviser to the head of the Roscosmos (Russian Space Agency). He has been remanded into pre-trial detention until September 6. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
The charges relate to his time as a journalist. The investigators believe that in 2012 Safronov was recruited by Czech "special services", and allege that in 2017 he transmitted "via the Internet" an information to' a person possibly connected' with Czech Intelligence. The information is allegedly related to the military cooperation of Russia with a Middle East country. This country is believed to be Egypt. In 2019, Kommersant removed from its website Safronov's article
on how Russia supplied Su-35 aircraft to Egypt. At the time, this article caused a diplomatic row. The United States threatened Egypt with sanctions. Later, the information in Safronov's article was confirmed as truthful.
"The investigation has failed to substantiate their suspicions regarding Ivan. This distinguishes his case from other similar ones. It's just a blank," said Safronov's lawyer Ivan Pavlov.
Over the past three years, Russians became accustommed to the prosecution of journalists for "narcotic drugs" (the case of Ivan Golunov), "for terrorism" (the cases of Svetlana Prokop'eva and Abdulmumin Gadzhiev), as well as for "treason".
The Russian journalists have been mired in censorship and self-censorship for some time, but now even that has become a lesser evil. The journalistic occupation itself has become a source of danger to those who practice it in a professional manner and with integrity. Normal journalistic practices are arbitrarily criminalized.
- We demand an impartial and transparent investigation into the charges levied against Ivan. As members of the professional community of Russian journalists we have repeatedly observed case after falsified case involving charges of treason and terrorism. At this point in history, we can no longer extend a minimal credibility or a benefit of doubt to the FSB (Federal Security Service).
- We demand that the Russian State authorities stop these arbitrary applications of criminal laws, based on implausibly wide interpretations of legal rules.
- We demand that the authorities cease manufacturing criminal cases against journalists. The arbitrary criminal prosecutions are aimed at silencing the professionals who simply do their job, ask the authorities awkward questions, and criticize officials.
- We urge our foreign colleagues, journalists' unions and associations, as well as human rights organizations in other countries to support us in the effort to protect Russian journalists and freedom of speech in Russia.