Russian Journalist found guilty of “Justifying Terrorism”
Russian journalist, Svetlana Prokopyeva, was found guilty on Monday in Pskov, Russia of ‘Justifying Terrorism’ in an article she wrote in late 2018 criticizing Russian secret police. In the article, Prokopyeva examined the actions of a Russian teen who blew himself up in a secret police office.
Prokopyeva blamed the incident on the Russian security services. Even though the secret police deemed the event an act of terrorism, she argued that the teen’s actions were a form of protest by way of necessity since even peaceful protests are essentially restricted in Russia by the secret police. Her article gained traction and went viral after it was broadcast over the radio and the internet.
The court handed down a fine of approximately $7000 in place of a lengthy jail sentence in the highly publicized case. With such a seemingly light punishment, it may appear that Prokopyeva got off easy, but the guilty verdict speaks volumes of the state of free speech in Russia.
Authorities claimed that the reduced sentence was a result of mounting public pressure; however, the backlash wasn’t strong enough to compel prosecutors to dismiss the case. Complete dismissal of the charges would have likely been interpreted as a defiant stand against the secret police, a move that would not have been tolerated.
Interestingly, the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council dismissed the secret security’s claims, issuing a statement that described the reporter’s article as not threatening or inflammatory enough to warrant such charges. Shortly after this decision, the council was reconfigured with many members removed in favor of loyalists.
Putin’s representatives hypocritically refused to comment on the case, citing a separation between the judicial system and the government, even though past experience with “telephone justice” has proven otherwise.
There is no proof that the handling and decision in the Prokopyeva case had anything to do with the recent referendum guaranteeing Putin’s rule until 2036; however, the timing couldn’t be more suspicious. The message conveyed in the court’s ruling is loud and clear: The world may be in a state of turmoil, but change will not be tolerated in Russia.