The Observatory has been informed about the imposition of a fine on Ms. Svetlana Gannushkina, founder and Chairperson of the Civic Assistance Committee1. The administrative harassment against her takes place amid the brutal crackdown on peaceful anti-war demonstrators, human rights defenders, and civil society organisations, that followed Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine, which started on February 24, 2022.
On March 15, 2022, Ms. Svetlana Gannushkina was fined 10,000 Rubles (approximately 87 Euros) by the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow, after she was found guilty of “violating the established procedure for arranging or conducting a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picket” (Article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses).
The Observatory recalls that Svetlana Gannushkina was arbitrarily arrested by law enforcement officers on March 6, 2022 for allegedly attending an anti-war protest on February 27, 2022. On the same day, prominent human rights defender Mr. Oleg Orlov, member of the Council of the Human Rights Center “Memorial” (HRC “Memorial”) and head of its “Hot Points” programme, was arbitrarily arrested at Manezhnaya Square for holding a sign in which it was written “Peace for Ukraine, Freedom to Russia”. They were both charged with “violating the established procedure for arranging or conducting a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picket”. Mr. Orlov and Ms. Gannushkina were released pending trial after more than 10 hours of arbitrary detention. Mr. Orlov was due to appear before the court on March 9, 2022 but the hearing was postponed until March 28, 2022.
The Observatory underlines that as of March 18, 2022, over 14,800 peaceful anti-war protesters have been arbitrarily arrested in 147 cities across Russia, according to OVD-Info, an independent human rights media project which has been targeted by the authorities in reprisal for its work documenting violations of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, the right to be free from arbitrary arrest and other human rights in Russia. Furthermore, according to independent media reports, some of the detainees have been beaten and there are also reports of torture by the police.
Additionally, on March 4, 2022, a bill criminalising the dissemination of “fake news” about Russian military operations was approved “to prevent the discrediting of the armed forces of the Russian Federation during their operations to protect the interests of the country and its citizens”. Individuals convicted on the charge of “fake news” will face up to three years of imprisonment, up to ten years if committed in an official capacity, and up to 15 years if the distribution of “fake news” leads to “serious consequences”. Moreover, “making calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia”, “discrediting such use” and “calling for sanctions against Russia” will be penalised with a prison sentence of up to three years.
In this framework, independent journalists and media outlets reporting on the war have been heavily targeted by the Russian authorities, both in Russia and in Ukraine. On February 26, 2022, Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media regulator, published a statement ordering media to remove reports describing the attack on Ukraine as an “attack”, “invasion” or a “war”. Should media outlets fail to comply with this order, they will face fines of up to 5 million rubles (approximately 53,200 Euros) and blockages. Roskomnadzor accused several independent media outlets of “spreading unreliable socially significant untrue information” about civilian deaths and the attacks of Russia against Ukrainian cities. The media regulator further underlined that reliable information could be found in “official Russian information outlets”, that is, State-controlled media. Around 30 independent media sites have been blocked since the publication of the statement, including Dozhd, Echo of Moscow, Meduza, Media Zona, New Times, among others. As of March 2, 2022, at least 11 independent journalists had been arbitrarily arrested for their work reporting on the war, including while they were covering anti-war demonstrations.
The Observatory strongly condemns the increased crackdown on human rights defenders, independent media and civil society organisations in Russia and expresses its utmost concern over the blatant violations of the rights to freedom of expression, information and assembly perpetrated by the Russian authorities, including the censorship imposed on independent media operating in the country by the Russian media regulator.
The Observatory further condemns the administrative harassment of human rights defenders and independent journalists, including Oleg Orlov and Svetlana Gannushkina.
The Observatory urges the authorities to put an immediate end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against Oleg Orlov, Svetlana Gannushkina and all human rights defenders, peaceful protesters, and independent journalists and media outlets in the country.
The Observatory further urges the authorities to guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Finally, the Observatory calls on the authorities to immediately repeal the above-mentioned new law and to reverse all restrictive measures implemented by Roskomnadzor.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Oleg Orlov, Svetlana Gannushkina and all human rights defenders and independent journalists in the country;
ii. Put an immediate end to all act of harassment, including at the judicial and administrative levels, against Oleg Orlov and Svetlana Gannushkina, as well as against all human rights defenders and independent journalists in the country;
iii. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
iv. Immediately repeal the above-mentioned new law criminalising the dissemination of “fake news” about Russian military operations, and reverse all restrictive measures implemented by Roskomnadzor, including the blockages of independent media outlets.
- Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
- Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
- Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: email@example.com
- Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: email@example.com
- Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: email@example.com
- Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.