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Independent Media Outlets Show Support For Embattled Russian Journalist

Svetlana Prokopyeva

Nearly a dozen independent Russian media outlets have published an open letter from Svetlana Prokopyeva, a journalist from Pskov who faces up to seven years in prison on charges of "justifying terrorism."

"The criminal case against me is the murder of freedom of speech," Prokopyeva wrote in the letter, published on October 1. "Having my example in front of them, dozens or hundreds of other journalists will themselves hesitate to speak the truth in a timely fashion."

The charges against Prokopyeva, a prominent local journalist who is a freelance contributor to the Russian Service of RFE/RL, stem from a November 2018 commentary she made for the Pskov affiliate of Ekho Moskvy in which she discussed a bombing that occurred the previous week outside the offices of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the far northern city of Arkhangelsk.

Russian media reported that the suspected bomber, a teenager who died in the incident, had posted statements on social media in which he accused the FSB of falsifying criminal cases.

In her commentary, Prokopyeva linked the teenager's statements to the political climate in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, suggesting that political activism in the country was severely restricted, leading people to despair.

"I did not justify terrorism," Prokopyeva wrote in her letter. "I analyzed the reasons for a terrorist attack. I tried to understand why a young man, who should want to live, decided to commit this crime and suicide."

"I do not admit my guilt and I consider this case to be just simple revenge on the part of the offended security agencies," she wrote. "In my article, I placed responsibility for the Arkhangelsk explosion on them. I wrote that a repressive state should expect such a reaction."

Prokopyeva's case has attracted the attention of international media-freedom organizations, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and the European Federation of Journalists.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly posted on Twitter on September 24 that "Prokopyeva is being persecuted for doing nothing more than voicing her opinions."

"Charges against her are an attempt to send a message to independent journalists," he added.

The October 1 show of support was timed to correspond with Prokopyeva's 40th birthday. The letter was published by Ekho Moskvy, RFE/RL's Russian Service, Novaya Gazeta, The New Times, Dozhd television, Open Media, and others.

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