Russian journalist jailed after court rules joke retweet ‘call to protest’: NPR
Vladimir Gerdo / Vladimir Gerdo / TASS
Russian journalist Sergei Smirnov is set to spend 25 days in jail for sharing another person’s tweet mocking his own appearance, after authorities said the post constituted an illegal call to protest because it included the date and time. time for an anti-government rally.
The conviction, which was handed down by Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court on Wednesday, signals the Kremlin’s continued crackdown on Russian journalists amid widespread nationwide protests demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Smirnov is the editor-in-chief of MediaZona, an independent media site founded by members of Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot that focuses on human rights and criminal justice issues.
On January 20, according to MediaZona, Smirnov retweeted a post that joked about his own resemblance to a Russian rock musician and referred to a pro-Navalny protest scheduled for January 23.
an огда @sssmirnov спел вступить “московскую группу Тараканы”? и про медиазону ничего не сказал, и подпись странная – “Дмитрий Спирин”
или это всё оследствия тату … pic.twitter.com/fU9L3YQFRh
– имя пока не придумал (@nemozhenya) January 20, 2021
The tweet he shared did not include the location of the protest or any other details. Yet police arrested Smirnov on Saturday as he was walking with his five-year-old son and detained him for several hours.
According to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, authorities initially accused Smirnov of participating in the protest, but changed the charge by illegally calling others to demonstrate after proving he was not present. .
Smirnov argued that he was retweeting a joke, not encouraging people to protest.
“A retweet does not equal approval,” he told the judge during his hearing, according to a press release from the International Federation of Journalists.
The court finally found Smirnov guilty of violating the rules for organizing public events in accordance with the Russian administrative code and sentenced him to an “administrative arrest”. Smirnov tweeted live of the trial proceedings on Wednesday, and its account – because supported by the editorial staff of MediaZona – continued to document conditions of his detention.
Dozens of media outlets in Russia have expressed support for Smirnov and condemned his conviction. The International and European Federation of Journalists also criticized the decision.
“The court’s sentence is not only excessive, it is also totally ridiculous,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “25 days in prison for retweeting a tweet! This sanction demonstrates the determination of the Russian authorities to silence any independent voice at a time when mass protests denounce the abuse of power.”
As NPR Lucian Kim reports from Moscow, Smirnov is one of many Russian journalists arrested since the protests began, and President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has argued the case against him as “absolutely logical”.
According to the IFJ-EFJ, Smirnov’s lawyer filed an appeal.