December 31, 2001


Vienna, 31 December 2001.

According to information before the Vienna South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), at the end of December 2001 two journalists were sentenced in Russia to prison terms.

Olga Kitova , 47-year-old investigative journalist from Belgorod , a reporter for Belgorodskaya Pravda, who reported about local corruption, was detained on 21 March 2001, and arrested in May 2001, but released on the orders of the District Court. That decision was reversed on 27 June as a result of a successful appeal to Belgorod Regional Court by the prosecutor. In March the police beat her unconscious. In December 2001 a local court sentenced Kitova to a suspended sentence of two and a half years for libel and using force against state authorities.

After several re-trials a court ultimately acquitted Grigory Mikhailovich Pasko on all counts except espionage, sentencing him on 25 December 2001 to four years of imprisonment for treason, for providing a Japanese television company with footage of the Russian navy dumping nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean, He was arrested in the case during 1997. Pasko formerly was a military journalist for the newspaper, Boyevaya Vakhta. Pasko was convicted of treason by a military court in Vladivostok.

The South East Europe Media Organisation is alarmed about both court cases and urges the authorities to respect the work of journalists and freedom of media in Russia.