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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 3, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
US State Department Highlights Case of Imprisoned Russian Journalist Sergei Reznik for World Press Freedom Day
2 years
Estonia Denies Entry to Russian State Journalists

The US State Department made a statement urging the release of Russian journalist Sergei Reznik yesterday, May 2, timed for World Press Freedom Day, today, May 3.

John Kirby said at the State Department's noon briefing:

We finish our Free the Press Campaign today, and for that campaign, in honor of World Press Freedom Day, which is, as you know, tomorrow, we’re going to highlight today a man named Sergei Reznik, a journalist and blogger from the city of Rostov-on-Don who was – who has been, I’m sorry, imprisoned since November of 2013.

Before his imprisonment, Reznik’s writing routinely criticized municipal and regional authorities in Russia and uncovered local corruption and abuses. The series of unrelated charges pursued against him include insulting a public official, bribery, and deliberately misleading authorities. A month before his conviction, Reznik was also physically attacked, when two unidentified men beat him with baseball bats and shot at him. Although he was not hit by bullets, Mr. Reznik suffered head and neck injuries from the beating.
While he sits in jail, authorities have made no progress in investigating the attack against him, consistent with a broader pattern of impunity in Russia for those who attack journalists. So again, we call on the Russian Government to release Sergei Reznik immediately.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists wrote about Reznik's case last year when he was handed an additional sentence of three years:

Before he was jailed in November 2013, Reznik contributed reports to several regional news websites, including Yuzhnyi Federalnyi, and posted articles to his blog on popular platform LiveJournal, according to news reports. His articles criticized municipal and regional authorities and alleged corruption and abuses, reports said. The original charges against Reznik included allegations that he had lied about threats against him. In October 2012, eight months after he reported the threats, he was physically attacked outside his apartment, according to CPJ research.

A statement about the latest verdict, released by the Prosecutor General's Office,said that in May 2013, while the earlier case was being investigated, Reznik made a statement that contained deliberately false information about a police agent who had testified against him. Prosecutors also said that from March 2012 to October 2013 Reznik "repeatedly published on the Internet articles of insulting character against the law enforcement agents of Rostov region, thus depicting his discontent with their fulfillment of duties."

The statement indicated an increasing willingness of the Obama Administration to speak out about human rights problems in Russia; recently the State Department condemned the outlawing of the Crimean Tatars' Mejlis or popular assembly by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea. While usually officials tend to make their remarks only in conjunction with the release of various reports required by Congress (such as on the Magnitsky Rule of Law Act), in recent months the State Department has issued statements on the anniversary of Boris Nemtsov's murder; two statements on Russia's unjust prosecution of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko; and on the designation of the US-funded National Democratic Institute as an "undesirable agent."

The State Department made a number of statements last year, mainly in connection with Russia's war against Ukraine and with shelling of civilians in Syria, as can be seen from the official State Department page humanrights.gov.

Assistant Secretary  of State for Human Rights Tom Malinowski gave an interview in March to Moskovsky Komsomolets answering a number of hostile questions about US motives for raising human rights issues in Russia. Malinowski said the US raised human rights problems on the basis of international standards by which all countries, including the US are bound. He also contrasted the US review of its surveillance practices with Russia's ongoing violation of privacy.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick