Journalist faces prison for radio comment
Svetlana Prokopyeva works at Radio Liberty and cooperates with other media outlets, including the Echo of Moscow radio station in Pskov. On 8 November 2018 she appeared on the Echo of Moscow speaking about the suicide bombing that had been committed the previous week by 17-year-old boy Mikhail Zhlobitsky in Arkhangelsk. He had detonated an explosive device at the regional headquarters of the Federal Security Service killing himself and injuring three officers. In her comment, Svetlana Prokopyeva pointed out that Mikhail Zhlobitsky’s act was a response to the authorities’ suppression of peaceful protest, which curtailed political pluralism and destroyed independent judiciary. Her comments were also published by the local online outlet, Pskov News Feed.
On 5 February 2019, the authorities opened a criminal investigation and the next day they searched her home. All her computers, phones and other digital devices were seized. Several months later, her bank account was frozen. Over a year later, Svetlana Prokopyeva is unable to open a bank account in her name or travel outside of the city where she lives. Under Article 205.2 §2 of the Criminal Code, she faces up to seven years of imprisonment, or a hefty fine, if found guilty.
In December 2019, Pskov City Prosecutor’s Office refused to approve the indictment of Svetlana Prokopyeva and returned the case to the Investigative Committee for review. However, on 16 March the case received approval from the prosecutor and was sent to court. The trial is expected to start soon.
The Russian authorities have a long history of restricting freedom of expression, including in printed, broadcast and online media, including under criminal and administrative charges ranging from “LGBT propaganda”, to “promotion of separatism” and “offending religious feelings”. Independent journalists have also faced prosecution under other trumped up charges such as financing of terrorism or drug dealing.
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