Russia: Authorities jail journalist for 15 days and arrest others

The Russian authorities condemned reporter and activist Ilya Azar to 15 days in prison on 28 May and detained several journalists who rallied in his support close to the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) in condemning the arrests and urging authorities to explain their arrest.

Police officers detain Russian photographer Victoria Ivleva (C) during a solo picket in support of journalist and activist Ilya Azar. Credits: DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP

Prominent journalist Ilya Azar was sentenced to 15 days in jail for “repeated violations of the protest law”. The ruling sparked outrage among his colleagues and followers, who gathered at the police offices to protest, claiming it was dangerous to keep the journalist in jail for two weeks during the coronavirus epidemic.

Up to eight journalists were arrested during the picket. Most of them were freed later in the day.

The Tver court of Moscow ruled against Ilya Azar for participating in a picket in support of the founder of the project "Police Ombudsman", Vladimir Vorontsov.

The RUJ has condemned both the arrest of Ilya Azar and the journalists who showed their support to him and urged the authorities to clarify the reasons for their arrest.

"We are aware of the situation and we are monitoring it. We ask to check the circumstances of the detention of the journalists, since solitary pickets are not prohibited," head of the RUJ, Vladimir Solovyov, said.

We have a wide range of mechanisms for protecting journalists in any incident they have while doing their job”, he added.

IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: “COVID-19 pandemic can not serve as an excuse for governments to clamp down on media and freedom of expression. The arrest of journalists for exercising their right to peaceful assembly is an act of intimidation that can’t be accepted. We call on the Russian authorities to stop harassing and intimidating media workers”.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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