Russia: journalist sentenced to six years in prison for Telegram post

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Source/Author: IFJ

Russian journalist Maria Ponomarenko has been jailed for six years for posting on Telegram about a deadly attack by Russian warplanes on a theatre in Ukraine. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) denounce this fierce repression of freedom of expression in Russia and demand the immediate release of the journalist.

Maria Ponomarenko, 44, a correspondent of the RusNews channel on Youtube, was sentenced to six years in prison for critical of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, officials said, as part of an ongoing crackdown on dissent. The verdict is the latest in a series of high-profile rulings under new legislation that critics say is designed to criminalise criticism of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

On 15 February, the Leninsky District Court of Barnaul in Siberia found her guilty of spreading alleged “fake news” about Moscow’s army. She was also barred from activities as a journalist for five years. Pomarenko will have “no right to engage in activities related to the administration of websites, public channels of electronic and information and telecommunication networks, including the Internet, for a period of five years,” said the press service of the court.

She was prosecuted for a post on an anonymous Telegram channel, on 17 March 2022, related to an attack on a theatre in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol that came under Russian control after a long siege. Some 1,200 civilians were seeking shelter inside the theatre when it was bombed by Russian fighter jets. Amnesty International said it was a war crime carried out by Russian forces

Prosecutors had requested a jail term of nine years. Ponomarenko was arrested last April 2022 in Saint Petersburg before being transferred to Barnaul.

According to OVD-Info, 138 defendants (including journalists Maria Ponomarenko, Andrey Novashov, Isabella Evloeva, Aleksey Shitik, Evgenia Baltatarova, Alexander Nevzorov, Ruslan Leviev, Michael Naki, Marina Ovsyannikova, Pyotr Verzilov, Andrey Soldatov, Vsevolod Korolyov, Mikhail Afanasiev, Sergei Mikhailov, Dmitry Kolezev, Hristo Grozev, Sergey Reznik, and bloggers Veronika Belotserkovskaya, Ilya Krasilshchik, Islam Belokiev, Sergey Nosov, Alexander Nozdrinov and Alexey Onoshkin) have been prosecuted in Russia under charges of alleged “fakes” about the Russian army.