Russia has hit back at US Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross after she tweeted that recent arrests of Russian journalists are “starting to look like a concerted campaign against media freedom.”
The accusation comes after the detention of former journalist Ivan Safronov, currently an adviser to the head of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos. The Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Safronov of working for Czech intelligence and transmitting classified information about Russian arms sales to foreign countries. If found guilty, Safronov could face up to 20 years in prison.
’Ross was referring to a comment by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, who, on July 7, spoke at an online conference called ‘The world through the eyes of the media in 2020’. Zakharova claimed that the US has moved away from the concept of “freedom of the media, freedom of speech, protection of the rights of journalists and generally understanding what freedom of speech is.”
Safronov’s arrest is the latest in a succession of journalists to be involved in the criminal system. Earlier this week, Svetlana Prokopyeva was convicted for ‘justifying terrorism’, after writing an opinion article explaining the possible reason that a man detonated a bomb in a local FSB office. In late May, Novaya Gazeta journalist Ilya Azar was detained for 10 days for protesting the arrest of Vladimir Vorontsov, an activist focused on the actions of police.
Most famously, in 2019, Meduza journalist Ivan Golunov was arrested and charged with a drug-related crime by Moscow law enforcement. He was later released after evidence emerged that drugs were planted on him by police officers.
On Twitter, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the US Embassy to “mind [their] own business.”
In recent months, freedom of the press in the US has come to the forefront of international attention after a series of televised detainments during Black Lives Matter protests. Several American journalists also reported being the targets of violence, with police even shooting a camera crew in Louisville, Kentucky.