The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling on authorities in the Russian republic of Tatarstan not to contest the appeals of two correspondents for an independent news website who have been found guilty of interfering with traffic and disobeying police.
A local court on May 9 convicted Aleksei Solovyov and Damir Manzhukov. Solovyev was sentenced to five days of administrative arrest, while Manzhukov was fined 2,000 rubles ($27) and released.
The journalists denied the charges, Solovyov told CPJ, adding that he filed an appeal in his case and that Manzhukov planned to do so as well.
Police have not returned their equipment that was confiscated during the arrest, he said.
Solovyov and Manzhukov work for the Rosderzhava news website, which primarily writes about alleged police corruption. Their YouTube channels -- Zhukman and Aleksei Svist -- regularly post videos on the same topics that receive tens of thousands of views.
In a statement on May 11, CPJ called on the authorities to not contest the journalists’ appeals, release Solovyov from detention immediately, and “ensure that their equipment is returned and that they can do their jobs without being pressured and persecuted by the state.”
“Russian law enforcement must stop punishing journalists for doing their jobs, and must investigate allegations of corruption instead of prosecuting journalists who report them,” said Gulnoza Said, the New York-based media freedom watchdog's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
On May 8, Solovyov and Manzhukov were driving in Vysokogorsky district when they spotted a group of police officers at the side of the road, some of whom were allegedly failing to wear pieces of headwear that are required by all officers, according to Solovyov.
The journalists stopped their car and Solovyev told the officers he wanted to file a complaint about the alleged violation, but they refused to accept the complaint, according to the journalist.
The officers then confiscated the journalists’ video cameras, phones, and dashboard camera, and took them to the district police station.
During their detention, police officers twisted Solovyov’s right arm, and a local hospital doctor told him that it had extensive bruising and inflammation, he told CPJ.