Lord George Foulkes (United Kingdom, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has today expressed concern over police actions against Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva.
Police detained and interrogated the journalist over comments regarding a suicide bombing broadcast last year, which – according to the Russian authorities – amounted to “publicly justifying terrorism”. Law enforcement officers searched Prokopyeva’s apartment, and seized her computers, telephones and files. The courts in Pskov also fined Radio Echo Moscow and the Pskov Newsfeed media outlet for broadcasting her comments.
“The European Convention on Human Rights protects the right of journalists to report on facts and express opinions, even if those opinions are disliked by the authorities or address controversial or sensitive issues,” said Lord Foulkes. “Any action against this fundamental right constitutes a breach of Article 10 of the Convention. Reporting on a complex matter such as terrorism does not mean supporting or justifying it.”
“Punishing journalists for addressing such issues, and fining media outlets for broadcasting such reports, may have a chilling effect on freedom of the media. Therefore, I call on the Russian authorities to drop the charges brought against the journalist and return without delay her professional equipment and files. The two media outlets fined for publishing Svetlana Prokopyeva’s comments should be offered the possibility to appeal and overturn this decision,” he added.