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Leading Russian Journalists Express Support For Colleague Accused Of 'Justifying Terrorism'

Svetlana Prokopyeva
Svetlana Prokopyeva

More than 30 independent Russian journalists have issued statements in support of Svetlana Prokopyeva, a journalist in the city of Pskov who is facing up to seven years in prison on charges of “justifying terrorism.”

The statements were posted on July 4 by the online journal Kholod.

“It is unacceptable to prosecute journalists for doing their jobs,” wrote Irina Malkova, editor in chief of the online publication The Bell. “It is unacceptable to plant drugs on them, to break their arms, or to put them in prison for their words or opinions.”

Prokopyeva, who is a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service, has been charged in connection with a commentary she published in November 2018 in which she discussed a bombing at the offices of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.

She noted that the suspected bomber, a teenager who died in the explosion, had posted statements on social media accusing the FSB of falsifying criminal cases. She argued that political activism under President Vladimir Putin had been severely restricted, leading some people to despair.

On July 3, prosecutors in the case asked the court to sentence her to six years in prison.

Journalist Ivan Golunov of the website Meduza -- who was himself targeted by a police attempt to plant narcotics on him in June 2019 that fell apart after a massive public outcry -- wrote that the FSB wants people to forget about the Arkhangelsk explosion.

“Why should we not think about it and try to understand why it happened,” Golunov wrote. “Attempting to understand the reasons that pushed a 17-year-old boy to build a bomb and go to the local FSB building is a socially important part of a journalist’s work.”

“Only a sick mind could see Svetlana’s words as a ‘justification of terrorism,’” wrote Viktor Muchnik, the editor in chief of the Tomsk-based TV-2 Internet television station. “Svetlana Prokopyeva is a professional, honest journalist and a brave person who must be acquitted. It is a matter of honor for the journalism community to make sure this happens.”

In a statement on July 3, acting RFE/RL President Daisy Sindelar described Prokopyeva as “a highly recognized journalist who was doing the exact opposite of what prosecutors allege.”

“Svetlana’s commentary was an effort to explain a tragedy,” Sindelar said. “The portrayal of her words as ‘justifying terrorism’ is a deliberate and politically motivated distortion aimed at silencing her critical voice.”

The case against Prokopyeva has also been criticized by international organizations such as the European Union, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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