A court ruled yesterday that Dorogov and Katelevskiy, who are both deputy chief editors at the independent investigative news website Rosderzhava, should remain in detention until the end of July while the police continue to investigate the case.
Arrested near Moscow by around 20 members of the Russian special forces on the night of 28 July, they are accused of extorting more than 1 million roubles (11 140 euros) from a traffic policeman in exchange for an end to critical stories about him.
The two journalists, whose investigative reporting has included stories about senior police officers seeking bribes from funeral services companies, are facing the possibility of 15 years in prison on this charge, which they think was fabricated with the aim of neutralising them.
“The police investigators seem unable to find evidence to prove that Aleksandr Dorogov and Yan Katelevskiy are guilty, although the two journalists have been held for nearly ten months,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The police must end this persecution, which has the hallmarks of a reprisal for their investigative stories about police corruption. We call on the Russian authorities to free them at once and to drop the proceedings against them.”
According to the journalists’ lawyers, the investigators are trying to identify the journalists’ sources and are threatening to make their already harsh prison conditions much worse if they do not cooperate.
The prison is giving Dorogov expired painkillers for a urinary ailment that prevents him from standing for very long. His health problems worsened in August after repeated severe beatings by prison guards and by fellow detainees cooperating with the prison authorities. His lawyer said he saw him with bruising under his left eye and on his left shoulder, a torn ear, broken ribs and injuries to his forearms and a leg.
Russia has fallen one place in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 150th out of 180 countries.