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Russia: Radio journalist faces seven years in prison

Seven years in prison for a radio chronicle: that is what risks a Russian journalist, accused of " justification of terrorism ". Svetlana Prokopieva claims to have done only her job as a journalist.

The case is causing growing excitement in Russia and has been denounced by several associations defending journalists. Accused of " justifying terrorism " in a column broadcast in November 2018, journalist Svetlana Prokopieva faces up to seven years in prison.

It is a radio chronicle circulated almost a year ago which is at the origin of the whole affair. On 7 November 2018, Svetlana Prokopieva mentions a bomb attack perpetrated a few days earlier in the city of Arkhangelsk, in front of the local headquarters of the FSB, ex-KGB. In her text, the journalist wonders about the motivations of the author of the attack, a 17 year old teenager who claims the anarchist movement. Citing the short message left by the young man with his passage to the act, it advances as an element of possible explanation the repressive policy exerted by the Russian authorities against the opposition. Svetlana Prokopieva cites inter alia the prohibitions of demonstrations, and the judicial harassment against the opponents. For her, the restriction of the political field of expression in Russia could explain the despair of a teenager, his decision to kill himself and target the security services. The column is broadcast live by Pskov's Moscow Echoes radio, and the text is then published on the internet by a regional news site, Pskovskaya Lenta Novostei .

In the weeks following the broadcast of the column, the radio Echoes of Moscow and the site Pskovskaya Lenta Novostei are fined several tens of thousands of rubles, with the obligation to delete the article. Then things get faster, and the nightmare begins for the journalist. In February 2019, an investigation is opened against him for " justification of terrorism ". Home search, placement under judicial supervision, confiscation of passport ... In July, Svetlana Prokopieva is placed by the authorities on an official list of " terrorists and extremists ", automatically resulting in a freeze of accounts and bank cards . Finally, on September 20, the journalist is formally charged. The sentence is heavy: up to seven years in prison.

" Justification of terrorism "

For several months, the situation of the journalist met with little response in Russia, despite the alarmist statements of several organizations defending journalists, including Reporters Without Borders . On October 1, however, about twenty newspapers and websites choose to publish an open letter signed by the journalist. In this text, titled Seven Years for Two Pages , Svetlana Prokopieva fully writes: " I never justified terrorism, I simply analyzed the causes of a terrorist attack, and tried to understand why a young man who had life before him decided to kill himself in a criminal act. I may have been wrong in rebuilding his motives, but nobody has proved it yet. "

For the journalist, the case that is brought to her is like a "punch in the face of every journalist in this country ... it is the murder of freedom of expression. "And ask the media that support (they will be twenty to do so) to publish," if they are not afraid to do so, "an excerpt from the chronicle incriminated. " Years of limited civil and political freedoms have created a state that is not free, but repressive, " reads this excerpt. " A state with which it is dangerous and scary to deal, " adds the columnist. Premonitory words could be said because now it is she, Svetlana Prokopieva, who is caught in the cogwheel of the Russian judicial system.