Russia: Journalist convicted on trumped up charges over comments on suicide bomb attack

Responding to today’s news that a Russian court has imposed a hefty fine on Svetlana Prokopyeva, a Radio Liberty journalist and contributor to Echo of Moscow radio station, for “justifying terrorism”, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, said:

“Using vaguely defined anti-terrorism legislation to prosecute a journalist for her comments on the radio shows the authorities’ clear intent to repress freedom of expression and further erode journalistic freedoms in Russia.

“After taking control of the television, printed media and lately much of the online news content, the Russian authorities are now pursuing spoken word on the radio and persecuting a reporter for freely speaking her mind.

After taking control of the television, printed media and lately much of the online news content, the Russian authorities are now pursuing spoken word on the radio and persecuting a reporter for freely speaking her mind
Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International's Russia Director

“The Russian authorities must quash Svetlana Prokopyeva’s conviction and ensure that counter-terrorism legislation is not used to gag government critics, stop discussions of public interest or penalize independent journalists.” 

Background

In November 2018, Svetlana Prokopyeva took to the airwaves to discuss the reasons behind a suicide bombing in the regional headquarters of Federal Security Service (FSB) in Arkhangelsk (northwestern Russia), suspected to have been carried out by 17-year-old Mikhail Zhlobitsky. In the comments aired on radio and later published online, she described the attack which injured three and killed Zhlobitsky, as a reaction to the state’s heavy-handed approach to criticism and its suppression of peaceful protests.

In February 2019, Svetlana Prokopyeva was charged with “justification of terrorism”, under Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code of Russia, a crime punishable by up to 7 years’ imprisonment. On 3 July 2020, the state prosecutor asked the court to sentence her to six years’ imprisonment and prohibit her from any journalistic work for four years. On 6 July, the judge ruled her guilty of the crime and issued her with a hefty fine of 500,000 rubles (US$7,000).