On Saturday, January 30, 2021, while on a walk outside his home with his son, police stopped Mediazona editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov. They then arrested him and took him away from his small child.
Smirnov is accused of urging people to join an unpermitted rally in Moscow on January 23 that was organized by Alexey Navalny, despite the fact that Smirnov was at home that day. In reality, he neither attended the demonstrations nor called on anyone to protest.
Mediazona, the news outlet that Smirnov oversees, focuses its reporting on political persecutions and human rights violations in Russia. Its journalists are devoted to covering the justice system’s many problems, which makes today’s actions by the police not just illegal but also disturbing and shameless. Targeting Sergey Smirnov has only one purpose: to frighten people. By taking him into custody and prosecuting him for these invented crimes, the Russian authorities are trying to scare Smirnov himself, his colleagues at Mediazona, and every independent journalist still breathing in Russia.
Smirnov’s detention represents a new level of political pressure by the state authorities against the news media. In addition to the mountain of laws enacted in recent years that are designed to weaken free speech, officials are now coming to journalists’ doorsteps to intimidate them directly. The goal is to deprive the public of even the opportunity to get information from independent sources.
Meduza’s newsroom expresses its support for Sergey Smirnov, his loved ones, and his colleagues at Mediazona. We will seek a lawsuit against the officers responsible for Smirnov’s prosecution, which is itself an attempt to obstruct a journalist in the exercise of his professional duties.