Two Russian journalists imprisoned on ‘extremism’ charges for alleged work for the Navalny group

Two Russian journalists have been arrested by the Russian government on charges of “extremism”. The courts have ordered them to remain in custody pending investigation and trial. The charges against them include accusations of working for a group that was founded by the late Russian opposition politician, Alexei Navalny.

Konstantin Gabov and Sergey Karelin have both denied the charges that have led to their detention for a minimum of two months before any trials commence. The Russian courts have accused them of “participation in an extremist organization,” which carries a potential prison sentence of two to six years.

The arrest of these journalists is part of a wider crackdown on dissent and independent media by the Russian government. This crackdown has been particularly intense since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over two years ago. To suppress any criticism of the war in Ukraine or any deviation from the official narrative, the Russian government has enacted laws that criminalize the dissemination of false information or statements that discredit the military.

According to Sergei Mingazov’s lawyer, the journalist for the Russian edition of Forbes magazine has been detained on charges of spreading false information about the Russian military.

Gabov and Karelin face accusations of creating content for a YouTube channel operated by Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption, an organization that has been deemed illegal by Russian authorities. It is worth noting that Navalny tragically passed away in a penal colony located in the Arctic in February.

According to the court press service, Gabov, a freelance producer who has worked for various organizations, including Reuters, was detained in Moscow. The court ruling has not yet received a comment from Reuters.

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Karelin, who holds dual citizenship with Israel, was apprehended on Friday night in Russia’s northern Murmansk region.

Karelin, 41, has had an extensive career working for various media outlets, including The Associated Press. He served as a cameraman for German media outlet Deutsche Welle until the Kremlin imposed a ban on the outlet’s operations in Russia in February 2022.

The Associated Press has expressed its deep concern over the detention of Russian video journalist Sergey Karelin. In a statement, the AP stated, “We are actively seeking more information regarding this incident.”

Russia is targeting opposition figures, journalists, activists, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and everyday Russians who express criticism of the Kremlin. Several journalists, including Antonina Favorskaya, have been imprisoned for their coverage of Navalny. Favorskaya is currently in pre-trial detention until at least May 28, following a hearing last month.

Favorskaya, who had been covering Navalny’s court hearings for years and filmed his last video before his death in the penal colony, was detained and accused by Russian authorities of participating in an “extremist organization” through her social media posts on Navalny’s Foundation platforms.

According to Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokesperson, Favorskaya did not publish anything on the Foundation’s platforms. Yarmysh believes that Russian authorities have targeted Favorskaya because she was simply doing her job as a journalist.

Evan Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American reporter for The Wall Street Journal, is currently awaiting trial on espionage charges at Moscow’s infamous Lefortovo Prison. Gershkovich and his employer have strongly refuted these allegations.

Gershkovich has been in detention since March 2023, when he was arrested during a reporting trip. He has spent more than a year in jail, but authorities have not provided any specific evidence to substantiate the espionage charges against him.

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The U.S. government has declared Gershkovich as being wrongfully detained, accusing Moscow of using the journalist as a pawn for political purposes.

The Russian government has taken strict measures against opposition figures, with one notable activist, Vladimir Kara-Murza, being handed a harsh sentence of 25 years.

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