Russia: Blogger Arrested on Extortion Charges

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Year 30 Jan 2018 Country Russian Federation Category B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner CPJ , RSF Alert level Level 1
30 Jan 2018 Russian Federation B. Detention and imprisonment of journalists State CPJ , RSF Level 1
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On 19 January 2018, Russian authorities detained Aleksandr Valov, the editor-in-chief and founder of local news site BlogSochi, and, two days later, charged him with extortion. Valov ran a video livestream of his arrest during which he narrated the police breaking his door, cutting off the electricity, and beating him. BlogSochi reported that the police seized the blogger's computer, documents, and money during his arrest. On 21 January, a Sochi court charged Valov with extorting 300,000 rubles (US$5,370) from the city's federal parliamentary deputy, Yuri Napso, according to the independent Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain). During court proceedings, the journalist pleaded not guilty and said the case was politically motivated, according to the media reports. The journalist's arrest came after he published a photo report of a beach Yuri Napso's brother Boris rented and allegedly mismanaged. Valov faces up to seven years in prison if found guilty, his defense attorney Aleksandr Popkov told Dozhd during an interview. On 25 January , a judge upheld a lower court's January 21 decision to detain Valov until 19 March when his trial is scheduled to begin, according to BlogSochi. Valov said his arrest was "an attempt to shut down the major and only independent [media] project of Sochi ahead of the [18 March 2018] presidential elections and World Cup - 2018," which will take place in Russia, in an article he wrote from prison that his colleagues published on BlogSochi. Valov has previously provoked the ire of Russian officials with his reporting. In July 2017, Yuri Napso sued Valov and a BlogSochi reporter, Vladimir Melnikov, for defamation and won, after the site published an investigation about a section of beach the politician had allegedly appropriated for a private swimming pool. Valov and Melnikov were ordered in December 2017 to pay the politician 1,000,000 rubles ($18,000) and 500,000 rubles ($9,000) respectively in damages after they lost their appeal. In the lead-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, BlogSochi reported on corruption among local officials, according to media reports from the time. Alert : 1 detention

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