Russian journalist investigated for ‘justifying terrorism’ because of a single phrase she used on the air
Officials searched the residence of Radio Liberty correspondent Svetlana Prokopyeva on February 6. The searches are part of an investigation under Article 205 of Russia’s criminal code, wherein officials are reviewing whether Prokopyeva “justified terrorism” in statements she made on the radio station Echo of Moscow in Pskov about an October 2018 attack on the local Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in the northern city of Arkhangelsk. Prokopyeva said “the government itself raised” a generation of citizens that decided to struggle against it. If charged and convicted, she faces a fine as high as 1 million rubles ($15,160) or a prison sentence of up to seven years.
The Echo of Moscow in Pskov newsroom was also searched. On February 6, a court fined the radio station 150,000 rubles ($2,273) under an administrative statue that regulates the abuse of free speech rights. The news site Pskovskaya Lenta Novostey (Pskov’s Newsfeed) was also fined 200,000 rubles ($3,030) on February 7 after publishing a transcript of Echo’s radio program. Both articles have since been deleted.
Prokopyeva says she had to sign a nondisclosure agreement. “Seven people total came into my little apartment from the ‘60s, including four SOBR [Special Rapid Response Unit] people,” the journalist told Meduza. “I guess they were expecting me to put up some kind of desperate resistance. They didn’t commit any acts of aggression; they said they were looking for ‘devices that could be used to commit a crime.’” Prokopyeva said officers confiscated a computer, flash drives, a microphone, a telephone, and various papers during the search. She was summoned for additional questioning on the evening of February 7.
Prokopyeva’s colleagues say officials are putting pressure on her because of local FSB politics. “The head of our local FSB branch, Alexey Ivanovich Kalyan, is on rotation this year. At the end of the year, he will either get promoted or have to retire,” said Denis Kamalyagin, the editor-in-chief of Pskov Governate, a newspaper Prokopyeva previously led. He added, “This isn’t a federal trend. It’s just the local FSB freaking out.” Kamalyagin said the same regional branch filed three other criminal cases in the last seven weeks: one against Pskov Oblast’s vice governor, one against activists from the opposition organization Open Russia, and one against the director of the Moglino commercial park.
Correction: An earlier version of this report stated that Svetlana Prokopyeva was formally charged with “justifying extremism.” In fact, at the time of this writing, police are merely investigating the potential offense and have not charged Prokopyeva with any crime. Meduza apologizes for the mistake.