Russian journalists jailed on ‘extremism’ charges for alleged Navalny group work

Two journalists have been arrested in Russia on charges of “extremism” amid claims from the Kremlin they were connected to groups founded by late Russian politician and freedom fighter Alexei Navalny.

Journalists Konstantin Gabov and Sergey Karelin both denied the charges of alleged “participation in an extremist organisation” with a penalty of six years in jail.

They are just the latest media personnel targeted amid a government crackdown on dissent and independent media that has intensified after the invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

The Russian government passed laws criminalising what it deems as false information about the military, or statements seen as discrediting the military, effectively outlawing any criticism of the war in Ukraine or speech that deviates from the official narrative.

Forbes magazine Russian journalist Sergei Mingazov was also arrested on charges of spreading false information about the Russian military, his lawyer said on Friday.

Mr Gabov and Mr Karelin are accused of preparing materials for a YouTube channel run by Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption, which Russian authorities have outlawed.

The Kremlin clampdown on Russian media and public dissent comes only three months after former opposition leader Alexi Navalny died in an Arctic penal colony in February.

Several journalists have been jailed for their coverage of Mr Navalny’s case, including Antonina Favorskaya.

Ms Favorskaya was detained and accused by Russian authorities of taking part in an “extremist organisation”.

She had posted on social media platforms belonging to one of Mr Navalny’s charities. She covered Mr Navalny’s court hearings for years and filmed the last video of Mr Navalny before he died.

Kira Yarmysh, Mr Navalny’s spokeswoman, said that Ms Favorskaya did not publish anything on the charity platforms.

She suggested that Russian authorities had targeted her because she was doing her job as a journalist.

Evan Gershkovich, a 32-year-old reporter for US publication the Wall Street Journal, is awaiting trial on espionage charges at Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison.

Mr Gershkovich was detained in March 2023 and has spent over a year in jail with Russian authorities yet to confirm what evidence, if any, they have to support the espionage charges.

Both Mr Gershkovich and his employer have denied the charges.

The US government has declared Mr Gershkovich as wrongfully detained, with officials accusing Moscow of using the journalist as a pawn for political ends.

Russia’s dissent clampdown aims to halt any activity the Kremlin deems against the state. Journalists, activists, LGBTQ+ people, members of the public seen as critical of the Kremlin, and even other politicians have been targeted.

Most recently, prominent political activist Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in jail for accusations of opposing the Kremlin.


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