Journalist Who Defied Putin’s Propaganda Sentenced in Absentia

Published: 07 October 2023

Marina Ovsyannikova

Russia sentenced Marina Ovsyannikova to 8.5 years jail in absentia. (Photo: Marina Ovsyannikova/Facebook, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

A Russian court has sentenced journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, who dared to openly challenge state propaganda, to 8.5 years in a penal colony for “spreading false news about the Russian Army,” as reported by the Russian independent human rights monitor OVD-Info on Wednesday.

Ovsyannikova emerged in March last year behind a news presenter during primetime live evening news, wielding a banner that read: “No war. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you.”

She was briefly detained but then again in the summer she went to Moscow’s Sofiyskaya embankment, this time with a banner reading: “Putin is a murderer. His soldiers are fascists. 352 children were killed. How many more children must die before you stop?”

Soon after this “incident,” she was placed under rigorous house arrest, from which she allegedly escaped with her daughter on October 1, 2022, prompting Russian authorities to add her to their wanted list. She fled to France.

The Moscow Basmanny District Court sentenced the former editor of the pro-government Channel One TV in absentia. The court also reportedly barred Ovsyannikova from operating websites or social media accounts for four years.

“Puppet justice,” Ovsyannikova commented on the X (ex-Twitter).

“I am being prosecuted for naming the actual number of children murdered by the Russian military in Ukraine. This official information is available on the U.N. website, which is not restricted in Russia,” she wrote.

Following the conviction in Russia, French authorities “vigorously denounced” the sentencing of Ovsyannikova in absentia.

“France is deeply concerned by the Russian authorities’ stepped-up crackdown against critics of government authorities and their war of aggression against Ukraine,” the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

It added that Minister Catherine Colonna stressed that Russian propaganda is “a weapon in its own right in the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine.”

“We call on the Russian authorities to abide by international human rights law, to respect the freedom to inform, to release all political prisoners, and to drop legal proceedings against them,” read the statement.

Another Russian journalist, Maria Ponomarenko, is one of those prisoners.

She was detained in April 2022 in St. Petersburg because she posted information about the Russian bombardment of Mariopol on Instagram. Subsequently, she was accused of spreading “false information” and convicted to six years in prison, to which she was transported on Wednesday, according to OVD-Info.

Ponomarenko’s health allegedly deteriorated due to abuse while in pre-detention jail. She was made to wear a summer uniform during the winter and was repeatedly put in solitary confinement, with no necessary medical aid offered. She reportedly had a mental breakdown and was treated at a psychiatric clinic, where she allegedly endured assaults from the personnel.

According to OVD-Info, nearly 20,000 people have been detained in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, solely for opposing Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country.