Press freedom still matters to some brave journalists in Russia - Steve Cardownie

President Volodymyr Zelensky walks in the town of Bucha where bodies were found lying in the street after the town was retaken by the Ukrainian armyPresident Volodymyr Zelensky walks in the town of Bucha where bodies were found lying in the street after the town was retaken by the Ukrainian army
President Volodymyr Zelensky walks in the town of Bucha where bodies were found lying in the street after the town was retaken by the Ukrainian army
Earlier this week I bumped into a tourist who, during our conversation about Edinburgh, said she was from Russia and on hearing from me that my wife was from Ukraine, hurriedly added that she also had relatives in Ukraine.

​ She said that since Russia’s armed invasion of Ukraine she feels that if she adds this qualification, it lets the listener know that she is at odds with what is happening and this “crazy war.”

Of course, she is not alone as many Russians are opposed to Putin’s incendiary, unwarranted invasion of a neighbouring country and are not fooled by his ludicrous assertion that the invasion was designed to liberate the Ukrainian people from the oppression they were suffering at the hands of a “Nazi” regime.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Amnesty International report that “People in Russia are not able to protest peacefully without fear of reprisals. A week into its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia introduced war censorship laws to make criticism of the invasion a grave offence. Two years on, many people are serving lengthy prison sentences for peaceful anti-war dissent.”

Independent media and activists have fled the country as it enforces a crackdown on any form of anti-war dissent to the extent that calling the war a “war” instead of a “special military operation” is considered a crime.

A new law, introduced this year, allows the confiscation of the property of people who are charged under the war censorship laws.

In its report of 4 March, Amnesty also points out that 43 journalists have faced criminal prosecution for their anti-war stance; 65 months is the average prison sentence for anti-war posts and 60 per cent of sentences for spreading “fakes” have been handed down in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A court recently sentenced a RusNews journalist, Roman Ivanov, to seven years in a penal colony for spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian Armed Forces. In court he knelt down and asked for forgiveness from the people of Ukraine, saying, “I want to ask for forgiveness from all Ukrainians to whom our country has brought grief.”

Amnesty’s Russia researcher, Natalia Prilutskaya stated, “By punishing Roman Ivanov for sharing reports on the killing of civilians in Bucha and other alleged crimes committed by the Russian military, the authorities are not only silencing him but also sending a clear message to deter others.

“In insisting that information about the war must be made public, Roman was simply carrying out his journalistic duty. His case underscores the dire reality of freedom of expression in Russia today. His kneeling in court to apologise to Ukrainians showed dignity and bravery.”

In February of last year another RusNews journalist, Maria Ponomarenko, was sentence to six years imprisonment on similar charges, aptly demonstrating the ruthless nature of the Russian authorities and their relentless campaign to deny journalists the freedom that their counterparts in this country and many others enjoy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

These two journalists deserve our gratitude and respect. They knew that their determination to report the truth about the war was likely to have severe consequences, yet they pursued a course of action which resulted in their loss of freedom.

Freedom of the press came before their own safety and wellbeing.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.