A criminal prosecution has been launched against a Siberian journalist who published content deemed to be in breach of the recently-passed laws banning the spreading of “fake news” surrounding Russia’s military activities in Ukraine.
Chief editor of the Novy Fokus website Mikhail Afanasyev was arrested on Wednesday, accused of disseminating “deliberately false information” about the Russian armed forces, an offence that can carry a 10-year prison sentence under the laws announced by Vladimir Putin last month.
Afanasyev had published a piece on Novy Fokus claiming that 11 riot police had refused deployment to Ukraine, a claimed deemed to be untrue in the charges brought against him today.
Another Siberia-based journalist was also arrested over an alleged breach of the laws on the same day as Afanasyev. Sergei Mikhailov, founder of the LIStok newspaper, had called for sanctions against Russia in light of the invasion of Ukraine. This too was banned in the laws passed by the Kremlin, and is punishable by up to three years in prison.
The charges form part of an unprecedented crackdown on press freedom and dissent in Russia. The majority of independent news outlets in the country have suspended publication since the passing of the controversial laws, whilst access to international news sources is heavily restricted by authorities.
On Wednesday four student journalists were sentenced to two years corrective labor for a video supporting Russians’ right to protest, an event that pre-dates the Ukraine invasion.
The repressive attitude extends beyond those in the media, with thousands of Russian citizens also reportedly detained for displaying their opposition to the Russian invasion. According to latest reports some 170 of those arrested at protests remain in custody.