Reacting to the detention of journalists and activists during a demonstration in Moscow on 3 February, which marked 500 days since the first “partial mobilization” of men to fight in Russia’s war in Ukraine, Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher, said:
“These resolute Russian women, who are advocating for their husbands’ return from the front line in Ukraine, have faced a familiar response from the authorities. Soldiers’ wives were barred from gathering, while police arrested journalists, among others, who were documenting the protest. These acts reflect the ongoing suppression of media freedom and the right to peaceful assembly in Russia, as the authorities repeatedly seek to blindfold the public.”
“The authorities have not managed to completely quell all protests and reporting on dissent. However, their tactics – including denying access to legal representation, confiscating phones and equipment from those arrested, and issuing threats of criminal prosecution against journalists affiliated with media organizations labelled as ‘foreign agents’ – clearly indicate an intent to suppress all coverage of dissent. The authorities must urgently respect and uphold the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and ensure that media workers are not arbitrarily arrested or otherwise prevented from reporting on protests.”
On 3 February, police in Moscow reportedly arrested around 30 individuals, almost all of whom are male journalists, including those who were wearing ‘Press’ vests. The reporters were covering the ‘500 days of mobilization’ protest rally, organized by ‘The Way Home’, a group run by wives of soldiers mobilized for the Russian war against Ukraine.
At least one journalist was interrogated about his sources and compelled to sign an explanatory note under the threat of being charged with “extremism,” without any formal charges being filed.
Although all but one of the individuals have now been released, the detentions greatly undermined press coverage of the rally.