August 30, 2018 - Updated on August 31, 2018

Bittersweet release from prison for Russian journalist

Credit: Vladislav Shatilo / RBC

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Alexander Sokolov, a Russian investigative reporter who spent more than three years in prison, was finally freed on 28 August, although he remains under judicial control. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) insists that he should never have been jailed and calls on the Russian authorities to free all other imprisoned journalists.

Sokolov announced today that he was released two days ago under a recent law redefining how time spent in pre-trial detention is deducted from jail terms. But he reported that he has been placed under the control of the judicial authorities.

“We are relieved to know that Alexander Sokolov is out of prison but nothing will ever efface the injustice to which he was subjected, because he should never have spent a single day behind bars,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“We call on the authorities to lift the final restrictions to which he is being subjected, to immediately free the five other journalists still detained in Russia, and to amend the legislation on extremism, to stop it being used in a repressive and arbitrary manner.”

Arrested in July 2015, Sokolov was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on a charge of “perpetuating the activities of a banned extremist organization.” In RSF’S view, his journalistic work was the real reason for his arrest. His last story was about the embezzlement of a large amount of public funds in the construction of the high-profile Vostochny Cosmodrome.

In 2017, he was one of seven journalists who were nominated for the RSF-TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize.

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in June and July, RSF waged a campaign for the release of all the journalists imprisoned in Russia, including Sokolov. The five journalists currently known to be detained in Russia in connection with their journalistic activities are Zhalaudi Geriyev, Alexei Nazimov, Igor Rudnikov, Alexander Tolmachev and Alexander Valov.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.