Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva has won a prestigious media award, just days after a Russian court found her guilty of “justifying terrorism” in a controversial case widely criticized as an attack on freedom of speech.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) announced on July 13 that Prokopyeva was one of its 2020 International Press Freedom awardees alongside three other journalists from Bangladesh, Iran, and Nigeria who have been “arrested or faced criminal prosecution in reprisal for their reporting.”
“Like brave and committed journalists everywhere, CPJ’s honorees set out to report the news without fear or favor for the benefit of their communities, their country, and the world,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director.
Prokopyeva, a freelance contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service, was ordered by a court on July 6 to pay a fine of 500,000 rubles (about $6,950), but she escaped a prosecutor’s demands for six years in prison and a ban on journalistic activities for four years. Prokopyeva said she will appeal the decision.
The case against Prokopyeva was widely criticized by independent Russian journalists, RFE/RL, media rights groups, and Western governments.
Prokopyeva was charged in connection with a commentary she wrote in November 2018, published by an affiliate of Ekho Moskvy radio. In the text, she discussed a bombing outside the Federal Security Service (FSB) offices in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.
Russian media have reported that the suspected bomber, who died in the explosion, had posted statements on social media accusing the FSB of tampering with criminal cases.
In her commentary, Prokopyeva linked the teenager's statements to the political climate under President Vladimir Putin. She suggested that political activism in the country was severely restricted, leading people to despair.
CPJ will honor the International Press Freedom awardees on November 19 at a virtual annual benefit gala due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The other awardees are Shahidul Alam of Bangladesh, Mohammad Mosaed of Iran, and Dapo Olorunyomi of Nigeria.