The charge is treason
A Russian court has sentenced a journalist to 22 years in prison for treason after prosecutors say he leaked a state secret. According to his supporters, this is an unjustified harsh punishment that shows the lack of media freedom in Russia.
Ivan Safronov, a former defense reporter for Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers who became an adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency, was arrested in 2020 and charged with leaking classified information. His lawyers told RIA Novosti that they will appeal the sentence.
Safronov’s supporters say the case is in retaliation for his reporting that revealed details of Russia’s international arms deals. “Everyone who is close to Safronov believes that the accusation of treason is absurd,” said journalist Katerina Gordeeva, after interviewing his mother, sister and former colleagues for a documentary on the case.
The 32-year-old Safronov strongly denies the allegations and says the information he allegedly passed on to the Czech Republic was entirely open-source public information, Reuters reported.
Before the court hearing, several independent Russian media called for Safronov’s release. In a statement, the media, including Meduza, Novaya Gazeta and Duzhd TV, said it was clear that Safronov was being punished for his reporting on Russian military procurement deals that angered the Russian Defense Ministry.
The heavy sentence – larger than what Russian courts usually hand down in murder cases – is seen as a significant blow to Russian reporting amid increased pressure on media freedom by the Kremlin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
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