Prominent Russian journalist charged with spying
In Moscow, journalist Ivan Safronov has been arrested on charges of treason for exposing secret dealings related to Russia's arms policy during his activities for business daily Vedomosti and other media outlets. Since the editorial conflict at Vedomosti he has been working as a consultant for the Russian state space agency Roskosmos. Safronov has now been charged with betraying state secrets to Czech intelligence agencies. Commentators voice concern.
Unwelcome reports on sensitive topics
In an editorial statement, the normally apolitical business website RBK describes the case as signalling a growing threat to press freedom:
“Ivan has only worked at Roskosmos for two months and had no access to secret information. So the FSB is interested in his activities when he was still working as a journalist. The accusation is to be understood as a signal to all media and society as a whole: it's better not to write anything at all about those entrusted with confidential information, whether they work for the government or for a company, i.e. high-ranking civil servants, employees of state corporations or businessmen. ... There are more and more such secret spheres. The criteria for what information is considered confidential are unclear. All kinds of things can suddenly be confidential.”
If there is any truth to the accusations, they must be substantiated quickly, Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of state-run broadcaster RT urges in her blog on Echo of Moscow:
“I don't think this story was faked from the start. The material gathered in the investigation comprises seven volumes. ... It's clear to me that in line with Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code one can easily become a spy by accident. ... And that's particularly true for journalists. One careless word to a friend who - unbeknown to you - works on the side for the Federal Security Service, and you're a traitor. ... What you can't do by accident, however, is receive money for such comments, especially not on a regular basis. The accusation is that Safronov took money for spying for the Czech Republic. ... I think that in order to defuse this unpleasant hysteria, the proof of such payments must be disclosed.”