Russian authorities should immediately release journalist Dmitry Bairov, drop all charges against him, and allow him to work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
On January 28, plain-clothed law enforcement officers detained Bairov near his home in Ulan-Ude, a city in the eastern Russian Republic of Buryatia, according to news reports and Bairov’s wife, Yekaterina Bartayeva, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
During his detention, approximately five officers ran up to Bairov, pushed him to the ground, and forcefully twisted his arms, dislocating his left arm, according to Bartayeva, who witnessed the raid, and those reports.
Later that day, the Sovetskiy District Court found Bairov guilty of “repeated violation of the law on mass events,” and sentenced him to 25 days of detention for his alleged participation in a January 23 rally in support of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Ulan-Ude, according to those reports.
Bairov is the founder of Respublika Buryatia, a YouTube channel with about 26,000 subscribers, where he and other bloggers post commentary on local socio-political issues and alleged corruption; he is also a freelance correspondent for The Communist of Buryatia, a newspaper published by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, according to those reports and his wife.
“Russian authorities should release journalist Dmitry Bairov, drop all charges against him, and allow journalists in Russia cover political protests freely and without a fear of being prosecuted by the state,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Russian law enforcement should ensure safe conditions for journalists who are doing an important job, not intimidate them with arrests on trumped-up charges.”
Bairov maintains his innocence, saying that he did not participate in the rally, but covered it as a journalist for his YouTube channel and while on assignment for The Communist of Buryatia, according to those reports and Bartayeva.
On January 29, Bairov went on a hunger strike, demanding a fair trial, according to Bartayeva. On February 1, the Supreme Court of Buryatia denied Bairov’s appeal, upholding the district court decision, after which Bairov continued his hunger strike and also refused to drink liquids, she told CPJ.
On February 4, Bairov was hospitalized with intense stomach pain and fatigue, and he stopped the hunger strike that day, according to his wife; she said he was hospitalized until February 8, when he was transferred back to the Temporary Detention Facility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Buryatia, in Ulan-Ude.
In a hearing on February 5, the court ruled not count the days Bairov spent in the hospital toward the 25 days of his sentence, Bartayeva told CPJ.
CPJ emailed the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Republic of Buryatia for comment, but did not receive any reply.