WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department has urged Russia to "immediately" free a journalist currently imprisoned on charges he calls politically motivated.
On May 2, State Department spokesman John Kirby raised the case of Sergei Reznik, a local journalist and blogger in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, as part of Washington's fifth-annual Free The Press campaign, aimed at highlighting "troubling trends in the persecution of journalists worldwide."
Reznik was sentenced to 18 months in jail in January 2015 after being convicted of insulting an official and making a false legal complaint on the Internet. The judge also ruled that Reznik has no right to work as a journalist in print or online for two years after his release.
At the time of that conviction, Reznik was serving out an 18-month jail term on similar charges and was expected to be released several months later.
Reznik denies all charges, saying both cases are retribution for his reporting on corruption.
"Before his imprisonment, Reznik's writing routinely criticized municipal and regional authorities in Russia, and covered local corruption and abuses," Kirby told reporters in Washington.
"We call on the Russian government to release Sergei Reznik immediately," he added.
In October 2013, Reznik survived an attack by unknown assailants who beat him severely with a baseball bat and shot at him before fleeing. The attackers have not been found.
"Although he was not hit by bullets, Mr. Reznik suffered head and neck injuries from the beating. While he sits in jail, authorities have made no progress in investigating the attack against him, consistent with a broader pattern of impunity in Russia for those who attack journalists," Kirby said.
In a report published in March, the Kremlin's own rights ombudsman noted "several procedural violations" in Reznik's case and said that such bans on practicing journalism represent a threat to freedom of the press in Russia.