10.5- and 9.5-year prison sentences for two journalists

CPJ (17.11.2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the 10.5- and 9.5-year prison sentences issued to journalists Aleksandr Dorogov and Yan Katelevskiy, respectively, on Friday, and called on Russian authorities to release them immediately and not oppose their appeal. 

“CPJ strongly condemns the lengthy sentences imposed on Russian journalists Yan Katelevskiy and Aleksandr Dorogov, who have already spent more than three years behind bars on fabricated charges,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian authorities should not contest Dorogov and Katelevskiy’s appeal, release them immediately, and stop jailing independent voices.”

On Friday, a court in Lyubertsy, in the Moscow region, convicted Dorogov, co-deputy chief editor of independent investigative website Rosderzhava, on two counts—extortion committed by a group of persons and extortion in order to obtain property on a particularly large scale— and sentenced him to 10.5 years in prison. The same court convicted Katelevskiy, co-deputy chief editor of Rosderzhava, on one count of extortion and sentenced him to 9.5 years in prison

Yevgeny Kurakin, chief editor of Rosderzhava, told CPJ that the journalists plan to appeal. In October, the state prosecutor had requested a 12-year sentence for Dorogov and 10 years for Katelevskiy. 

The extortion charges stem from a May 21, 2020, complaint filed by a traffic officer, who alleged that he paid Dorogov and Katelevskiy 1.3 million rubles (US$14,400) to stop them from making videos about him, according to human-rights news website OVD-Info. The two journalists had previously published YouTube videos on their channels mocking and criticizing the officer.

The journalists repeatedly denied the charges and claimed that their persecution stems from their investigative work, in particular their joint investigation into alleged corruption between funeral businesses and senior police officials, published on the YouTube account Dvizhenie, which investigates corruption and irregularities by the road police and has about 613,000 subscribers.

Dorogov and Katelevskiy have been in pretrial detention since July 2020, when they were arrested and beaten by police.  

CPJ’s email to the Lyubertsy City Court did not receive a response. Russia has imprisoned at least 19 journalists, including Dorogov and Katelevskiy, as of December 1, 2022, when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census.

Photo credits: YouTube/RusNews