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Russian Journalists Start 'Silent Broadcasts' To Avoid Prosecution

Protests have been held in Khabarovsk since July 2020.
Protests have been held in Khabarovsk since July 2020.

KHABAROVSK, Russia -- Journalists in Russia's Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, where demonstrations in support of the region's jailed former governor have been held since July last year, have started so-called "silent broadcasts" to avoid prosecution.

Many journalists in Khabarovsk were detained while covering the protests in recent months, although they say they had all of the documents needed to prove that they were doing their jobs. Some were either fined or jailed for several days for what local courts judged as the "participation in unsanctioned rallies."

Tatyana Khlestunova, a reporter at Prosto Gazeta (Just A Newspaper) who spent several days in jail over her coverage of the rallies, told RFE/RL over the weekend that the silent broadcast entails coverage of rallies without any commentary from reporters.

"The first 'silent broadcast' was conducted by reporter Kristina Gritsayenko of Zanaves Khabarovsk (Curtains Khabarovsk), a YouTube channel, from...the city center on March 12. Such coverage is our symbolic answer to the repressive environment faced by journalists," Khlestunova said, adding that such coverage had an even greater impact on the public.

According to Khlestunova, the last straw that prompted journalists to start silent broadcasts was a decision by a Khabarovsk district court on March 10 to sentence an Orthodox archpriest, Andrei Vinarsky, to 20 days in jail for publicly supporting the protesters. Vinarsky is currently on a hunger strike to protest his incarceration.

Journalist Yekaterina Biyak of the Activatica.or online newspaper told RFE/RL that she fears authorities may start convicting reporters for the "silent broadcasts."

The arrest in July 2020 of Sergei Furgal, who was the governor of the Khabarovsk region at the time, on charges of being involved in alleged murders more than a decade ago sparked large-scale protests in the city

Furgal has denied the charges.

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

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