Russian news editor jailed ‘over re-tweet’

Sergei Smirnov, chief editor of Mediazona, an online news publication often critical of the Russian government has been sentenced to 25 days in jail over a re-tweet.

Smirnov was found guilty of repeatedly violating legislation on public gatherings, his lawyer Fyodor Sirosh told AFP.

Ahead of a January 23 protest in support of top opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Smirnov re-tweeted a joke that included the time of the protest rally.

In the re-tweeted post, a Twitter user quipped that the editor looked like the leader of the punk group Tarakany (Cockroaches), Dmitry Spirin.

Sirosh said the Mediazona editor had been accused of urging Russians to protest.

According to the AFP source, Smirnov did not attend the protests.

Mediazona is an online publication which writes about court cases and abuses of prisoners’ rights, among other subjects. Its publisher is anti-Kremlin activist Pyotr Verzilov.

“This is the first arrest of an editor-in-chief of a media outlet in the history of Russia,” Verzilov tweeted. 

“The Kremlin is not only trying to harshly crack down on protests but is also trying to intimidate journalists who are writing about what’s happening.” 

Verzilov said Smirnov did not even attend the January 23 rally.