Sep 6, 2022 - World

Journalist's "treason" case raises new concerns over Russian dissent crackdown

Journalist Ivan Safronov stands inside a defendants' cage during a 2020 court hearing in Moscow, Russia. Photo: Vasily Maximov/AFP via Getty Images

A Russian court sentenced former investigative journalist Ivan Safronov to 22 years in prison on Monday after convicting him of treason charges.

Why it matters: Rights groups and independent news outlets denounced Safronov's sentencing over "baseless" claims that he passed military secrets to Czech spies and expressed concern over an "intensifying crackdown on dissent in Russia," per Radio Free Europe.

  • Safronov's sentencing came the same day a Russian court revoked the print license of the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, partly founded after funding from the late former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • The paper's co-founder Dmitry Muratov was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, which he auctioned off for $103.5 million in a fundraiser for Ukrainian child refugees in New York City last June.

The big picture: Safronov reported for the Kommersant and Vedomosti newspapers before leaving journalism in May 2020 to become an adviser to the head of Russia's space agency, Roscosmos.

  • He was arrested in July of that year and has always denied any wrongdoing.

What they're saying: The European Union issued a statement to its Telegram channel calling for the charges against Safronov to be dropped and for authorities to "release him unconditionally."

  • The Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement calling for Safronov's release, said he was "guilty of no other crime than doing his job as a journalist."

What's next: Safronov, who previously declined a plea deal, plans to appeal the verdict, the BBC reports.

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