Paris, April 11, 2022 — Russian authorities should stop harassing members of the press and labeling them as foreign agents, should thoroughly investigate all attacks on journalists and ensure that the media can operate freely , the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On Friday April 8, the Russian Ministry of Justice tagged three journalists—independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta correspondent Iryna Borukhovich; Ekaterina Mayakovskaya, journalist for the Russian Idel.Realii project of the US Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; and Andrei Filimonov, a contributor to another of RFE/RL’s Russian projects, Sibir.Realii, as “foreign media operatives”, according to multiple reports.
The next day, state media regulator Roskomnadzor blocked independent news sites Holod and Speech.ioaccording to the statements of the two media.
Separately on Friday, police briefly detained Yevgeny Levkovich, a journalist with Radio Svoboda, RFE/RL’s Russian service, at his home in Moscow and accused him of ‘discrediting the military’, according to reports and publications. on Levkovich’s Facebook.
And on Sunday April 10, two unknown men assaulted Vasiliy Vorona, correspondent for the independent news site Sota.Visionwhile interviewing people in Moscow, according to a report by Sota.Vision and the outlet’s editor, Aleksey Obukhov, who spoke to CPJ via the messaging app.
“Block websites, detain journalists, add them to the list of foreign agents; in Russia, the authorities will clearly use every means at their disposal to stifle independent reporting,” said Gulnoza Said, coordinator of CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program. “The Russian authorities must drop all charges against Yevgeny Levkovich, immediately repeal their arbitrary law on so-called foreign agents, and promptly investigate the recent attack on journalist Vasiliy Vorona.
Prior to being appointed as a foreign agent, Borukhovich had recently covered Russia’s war against Ukraine during Novaya Gazeta. CPJ was unable to immediately locate examples of Mayakovskaya or Filimonov’s work after mid-February. Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24.
Individuals on the foreign agent list must regularly submit detailed reports of their activities and expenses to authorities, and their status must be listed whenever they produce content or are mentioned in news articles, according to the law. . Failure to comply could result in a two-year prison sentence.
Earlier this month, Roskomnadzor also blocked media websites Wonderzine and It’s my cityaccording to reports from both media.
In Moscow, police detained Levkovich for approximately five hours at the Teply Stan police station and charged him under Article 20.3.3 of the administrative code for allegedly discrediting the military; convictions for this offense can result in a fine of up to 50,000 rubles (US$613).
Levkovich wrote on Facebook that his trial was scheduled for Monday, but he hadn’t planned to attend because he “didn’t see the point” in challenging the charge.
Radio Svoboda wrote that the accusation was likely related to Levkovich’s social media posts, but did not say whether authorities had specified any posts that prompted the accusation. On his personal Facebook page, where he has about 36,000 followers, Levkovich recently wrote about Russia’s war against Ukraine.
In the incident involving Vorona, the unidentified assailants smashed his glasses and injured his nose, saying he ‘appeared suspicious’ as he questioned people in Moscow about food shortages and other consequences of the the war, according to Obukhov and the report of Sota.Vision.
The police arrested the two attackers and took them, together with the journalist, to the Yasenevo police station; once there, the police asked Vorona if he had a connection with Novaya GazetaObukhov told CPJ.
Obukhov said police released the attackers later Sunday and did not transfer the case to the Investigative Committee, where violations of the criminal code are being investigated. Obukhov told CPJ that “the police are doing their best to turn everything into an administrative matter.”
He added that Sota.Vision had asked the prosecution to open an investigation into the attack under article 144 of the code of criminal procedure, which obliges the authorities to verify any denunciation of a crime, but he received no response.
CPJ emailed Russia’s Justice Ministry and Roskomnadzor’s press service for comment, but received no response. CPJ was unable to contact the Russian Interior Ministry for comment because its website failed to load.