Rights groups and free-press monitors in Russia and around the world are calling for the release an investigative journalist and blogger in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
Sergei Reznik was found guilty Thursday of insulting a public official and making false statements and was sentenced to three years in prison -- in addition to an 18-month prison term he is already serving. The court also banned Reznik from practicing journalism for two years after his eventual release.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement that “Punishing and sending journalists to prison for doing their job is unacceptable. Instead of ensuring protection and independence of members of the media, the authorities are effectively limiting the space for public debate and the citizens’ right to freedom of information.”
Reporters Without Borders condemned Reznik’s sentencing and called for a fair appeal hearing in another jurisdiction. It said "this outspoken journalist" has been subjected to “judicial persecution," with the apparent aim of silencing him.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also condemned the conviction and sentence and called on authorities to overturn the verdict. "We call on authorities," CPJ said, "to overturn this bizarre conviction on appeal and stop persecuting Reznik for his critical writing."
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) have strongly denounced Reznik's conviction and sentence and also called for his immediate release.
Reznik was due to have been released in May. He has been in prison since November 2013.
The Russian journalists' group said Reznik's fate "is clearly a new form of pressure on independent journalists,“ and warned this could result in journalists censoring themselves.
The union says censorship in the mainstream Russian press has already forced many journalists to limit publication of their investigations to blogs alone.