A sophisticated system, which has been tightened since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, makes any reporting of protests in Russia by journalists or independent observers even more difficult. They risk restrictions and serious reprisals. Human rights organization Amnesty International concludes this today in a new report.

    That report lists dozens of cases of unlawful obstruction of the work of journalists and observers during public protests, including arbitrary arrests, use of force, detentions and heavy fines. “We see that the Russian authorities are determined not only to prevent and severely punish any protest, however peaceful, but also to minimize any public attention for it,” said Amnesty International’s Natalia Prilutskaya.

    Although they risked excessive fines and prison sentences, in February 2022 tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Journalists and observers who were on the scene and reported on it faced police brutality. A year earlier, the same tactic was used in the protests for imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. “By denying the public any knowledge of protests and hindering their monitoring, the Kremlin seeks to stamp out any public expression of dissatisfaction,” Amnesty said.

    Riot police arrest a man during a protest in Moscow. Image from September this year. © AP

    Restriction of freedom of expression

    Laws in recent years have limited freedom of expression and increased the risk of retaliation for those reporting on public gatherings. For example, journalists must wear “clearly visible badges of a representative of the mass media”, but the police are increasingly making additional demands. In addition, they are arbitrarily arrested before, during and after public gatherings, and often these arrests are accompanied by excessive and illegal force.

    After the invasion of Ukraine, reprisals against observers and journalists escalated further. The new law prohibiting the spread of “false information about the Russian armed forces” has already resulted in criminal proceedings against at least nine journalists and bloggers. The “discrediting” of the army has already resulted in punishments against media outlets and journalists.

    “Those relentless attacks on the free press have led to an exodus of hundreds of journalists from Russia,” said Amnesty International. The organization wants these practices to end immediately. abolished,” it said.