Russia: Four journalists sentenced to forced labor

The Dorogomilovsky District Court in Moscow sentenced on 12 April four journalists from student magazine, DOXA, to two years of forced labour. According to the judge, the journalists had called on young people to demonstrate against the Kremlin. They were arrested in April 2021 after a raid on the editorial office. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) denounced the eradication of press freedom in Russia and called for the immediate release of the journalists who were just doing their job.

Picture credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP

On 14 April 2021, law enforcement officers in Moscow raided the office of student-run magazine DOXA and the apartments of four of its editors, Natalia TyshkevichVladimir MetelkinAlla Gutnikova and Armen Aramyan.

Officers took the journalists to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, where they were charged with “calling or otherwise involving minors into unlawful activities that might be dangerous”. The Basmanny District Court ordered Aramyan, Tyshkevich, Metelkin, and Gutnikova to be released and placed under home detention, with a ban on leaving their homes until trial.

The independent news medium DOXA was founded five years ago by students and graduates of the Moscow Higher School of Economics. The magazine, which has since been blocked, focused on student life, educational news, politics and science.

The Investigative Committee officers told the journalists that their charges stemmed from a video DOXA published in January 2021, amid nationwide protests in support of opposition figure Alexei Navalny. The video, titled “They Can’t Defeat Youth,” expressed support for students who had been punished by their educational institutions for participating in rallies. DOXA later deleted the video by order of Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN).

According to news reports, the video did not contain any calls to join the protests, but only expressed concern for the students.

The four reporters said they will appeal the verdict.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "Freedom of expression means journalists shall be entitled to report in full independence and without undue pressure from governments. It is clearly not the case in Russia and we call on the government to stop targeting journalists and let Natalia Tyshkevich, Vladimir Metelkin, Alla Gutnikova and Armen Aramyan report freely".

“We stand with Natalia, Vladimir, Alla and Armen,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “The violence of this court decision demonstrates the determination of the Russian authorities to eradicate any independent voice in Russia, to impose a blanket on Russian civil society. We strongly condemn this ruling and demand the immediate release of the four journalists, who have only done their duty. The Putin regime will not defeat free and independent voices in Russia.”

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

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

Follow the IFJ on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Subscribe to IFJ News