A criminal case has been opened against a Siberian journalist whose news site published content criticizing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian media reported on Thursday.
Mikhail Afanasyev, editor-in-chief of Novy Fokus in Russia’s Khakassia region, was arrested by security forces on Wednesday following the website’s reports of 11 riot police who allegedly refused to deploy to Ukraine.
Afanasyev was charged Thursday with spreading “deliberately false information” about the Russian armed forces, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison under a law passed last month.
The charges come amid an unprecedented crackdown on independent media and anti-war dissent. Last month, Russia’s parliament passed a law imposing a prison sentence of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “false” information about the military.
Afanasyev has published numerous investigations into sensitive issues in Khakassia, such as organized crime and alleged abuses of power by local officials.
In 2009, he was charged with defamation after publishing articles criticizing the Russian government’s response to an explosion at the country’s largest hydroelectric plant that year. And in 2016, he reportedly received death threats from a criminal gang active in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk region, after detailing the group’s illegal activities and alleged links to local police.
Another Siberian-based journalist was also arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of violating new Russian laws on media coverage of the situation in Ukraine. Sergei Mikhailov, founder of the Altay Republic-based weekly LISTok, has reportedly been remanded in custody over the outlet’s alleged “calls for sanctions against Russia”.
LISTok’s website has been blocked since March for “promoting” activities opposing Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
Four student journalists were sentenced on Wednesday to two years of “corrective work” for an online video in which they defended the freedom of assembly of young Russians.
Former Doxa journalists Armen Aramyan, Natasha Tyshkevich, Alla Gutnikova and Volodya Metelkin had been under house arrest for almost a year after being detained in April 2021 for posting a three-minute video on YouTube in which they said he was illegal to expel and intimidate students for participating in rallies in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
A Moscow court on Tuesday said the video encouraged “the involvement of minors” in anti-Kremlin protests.