Journalism is not a crime ‘Meduza’ demands public access to the treason case against reporter Ivan Safronov
On Tuesday, July 7, our colleague, journalist Ivan Safronov, was arrested in Moscow. Ivan worked for many years at Kommersant, where he became one of Russia’s best specialists on the military-industrial complex, following in the footsteps of his father, who died tragically in 2007. Ivan is now accused of high treason. He supposedly transmitted certain secret information to a NATO member state.
Just yesterday, we were preparing ourselves mentally for an editorial in support of Pskov journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, who was charged with “justifying terrorism.” Fortunately, the court decided not to send her to prison, and we sighed in relief. At the same time, however, together with everyone else, we are outraged that she should have to pay 500,000 rubles ($7,000) for speaking out about state repressions and fabricated criminal cases. The news today about Ivan Safronov’s arrest has turned out to be even more terrifying: prosecutors wanted Prokopyeva locked up for six years, but Safronov faces between 12 and 20 years in prison.
We don’t know what specifically is meant to incriminate Safronov. We don’t know what proof investigators have collected. And we don’t know the evidence that will be used in court. Worst of all, we’ll probably never know these things because treason prosecutions in Russia are carried out behind closed doors. It’s likely that even the lawyers in the case won’t be permitted to inform the public about developments in the trial.
But we know at least three things without a doubt: spymania has swept Russia in recent years, federal agents have tortured suspects in custody, and officials have often brought criminal charges against journalists, like the cases against Svetlana Prokopyeva and Meduza’s own Ivan Golunov. Sadly, condemning a man in a trial closed to the public is perhaps even easier than planting drugs on him. As the case moves forward, we can expect waves of anonymous statements “by sources close to the investigation,” who will claim that there’s no smoke without fire.
But until the authorities present convincing evidence of Ivan Safronov’s guilt for an open and impartial assessment, we will presume not just his innocence but that the entire case against him is fabricated. The purpose of this case (and many cases like it) is to pressure Russia’s fewer and fewer remaining independent journalists.
We trust Ivan Safronov’s integrity and we believe we have the right to demand that his case is opened to the public. Journalism is not a crime.