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Russian Blogger Faces Prosecution

The aftermath of the blast in Siberia
The aftermath of the blast in Siberia
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on August 21 that Mikhail Afanasyev, editor of the online Russian magazine Novy Focus, was charged with defamation after he posted a blog entry (read the post in English) about a deadly explosion at Russia’s largest hydroelectric plant on August 17. In their entry, Afanasyev and two colleagues, Eric Chernyshov and Grigory Nazarenko, challenged the Russian government’s response to the explosion at the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant in Khakassia in southern Siberia. Russian officials and state-controlled media initially said that up to 15 workers died at the plant but, according to a RFE/RL report (read the story in English), Afanasyev found that up to 100 may have been killed. The journalists called on other Russian bloggers and the press to distribute their reports.

In an official press release (English version) cited by CPJ, regional prosecutors in Khakassia state that Afanasyev is being charged with slander. The release says that Afanasyev “distributed knowingly false information that slandered the honor, dignity, and business reputation of the regional authorities and plant management.”

Afanasyev told Radio Svoboda he and his two colleagues interviewed families and colleagues of the power plant workers to determine the death toll.

If convicted, Afanasyev faces up to three years in prison. Chernyshev and Nazarenko have not been charged.