While relieved that Russian radio journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva was given a fine today rather than the prison sentence sought by the prosecution, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) nonetheless condemns her conviction on a charge of “justifying terrorism” and calls for it to be overturned on appeal.
Around 30 people, including an RSF representative and the journalist's colleagues from Radio Svoboda (the Russian service of the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), were in court for today’s trial in the northwestern city of Pskov to show support for Prokopyeva, who received the verdict and sentence calmly.
She was fined 500,000 roubles (6,160 euros) for allegedly “justifying terrorism” in a November 2018 radio commentary in which she wondered what drove a teenage anarchist to blow himself up outside the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, and linked it to the political climate in Russia.
The prosecution, which based its case above all on psychological and linguistic expert analyses of her commentary, had requested a six-year prison sentence for Prokopyeva followed by a four-year ban on working as a journalist.
“This conviction is both absurd and arbitrary because Svetlana Prokopyeva did not in any way justify this act of terrorism,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
“The law is being twisted in order to intimidate journalists who just do their job and to restrict free speech in an unprecedented manner. We are relieved that this journalist has avoided a prison sentence and a ban on exercising her profession but we urge the authorities to overturn her conviction and we support her intention to appeal.”
“I am not guilty,” Prokopyeva said with force as she left the court after the trial, thanking all those who came to support her. After the prosecution said it was seeking a six-year jail term, journalists demonstrated spontaneously in support of Prokopyeva during the weekend in both Moscow and Pskov, and around a dozen of them were briefly arrested.
Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.