Russian journalist Ivan Safronov sentenced to 22 years in prison: “The absurd and inconsistent indictment shows that he is being punished just for doing his job”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the 22-year prison sentence that the Russian investigative journalist, held in temporary detention for more than two years, received for revealing so-called “state secrets” that were already available online. The treason charge on which this iniquitous and vengeful sentence is based is completely unfounded, RSF says.

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“Russia’s merciless judicial apparatus is trying to crush a talented journalist – but it does so in vain because others will replace him,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The utterly incoherent indictment brought against Ivan Safronov shows that he is being punished for doing his job. We condemn this draconian, iniquitous and vengeful sentence by a regime that is allergic to journalists, a sentence issued behind closed doors while his lawyers were prevented from defending him.”

Investigators detected the presence of “state secrets” in seven analytical articles that Safronov sent to Czech journalist Martin Larysh and German political analyst Dmitri Voronin. But all the supposedly secret information was already available online before Safronov wrote his analyses, except one about technical problems linked to reconnaissance satellite trials. This was made public less than two months later as a result of a decision made by the Moscow arbitration court, according to research by Proekt, a Russian investigative media outlet that has been declared “undesirable” and, in practice, is banned in Russia.

For example, his analysis about the transfer of T-72 tanks and BRDM-2 armoured vehicles to Serbia was based on information published by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti and on reports published by the Russian defence ministry.

Safronov is regarded as one of Russia’s best journalists, one who had broken some major stories prior to his arrest on 7 July 2020 (see his portrait by RSF). His defence rights were flouted and his lawyers themselves became targets of the intelligence services.

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