IPI joins calls to release Russian photojournalist
Denis Sinyakov detained covering activists protesting offshore Arctic drilling
By: Steven M. Ellis, IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser
VIENNA, Oct 1, 2013 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today joined calls for Russian authorities to release a photojournalist who was seized along with Greenpeace activists who sought to disrupt Arctic offshore drilling.
A court in Murmansk on Thursday remanded Denis Sinyakov into custody for two months while prosecutors consider whether to bring piracy charges against him and 29 others detained after two of them tried to scale the side of Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil-drilling platform in the Pechora Sea.
IPI Executive Board Chair Galina Sidorova, who also chairs the Moscow-based Foundation for Investigative Journalism – Foundation 19/29 (Russia), said: “IPI considers the detention of photographer Denis Sinyakov unacceptable. Under Russian media law, authorities must guarantee the protection of the life, health and dignity of a journalist exercising his or her duties. The detention of Denis Sinyakov is in clear violation of this law. We call on the Russian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.”
Prosecutors opposing Sinyakov’s release on bail reportedly argued that his frequent travels abroad made him a flight risk and that he could possibly destroy evidence. However, Sinyakov’s supporters noted that his wife and child reside in Moscow, that authorities seized his equipment and that the Greenpeace vessel on which the actvisits and Sinyakov were detained – the Arctic Sunrise – remained docked in Murmansk.
Sinyakov, who has worked as a freelance photographer for Reuters and Agence France-Presse, has photographed previous protests by Greenpeace activists. He reportedly was aboard the Arctic Sunrise to take photographs for the group and for the news website Lenta.ru on Sept. 19 when Russian coast guard officers boarded it by helicopter.
Lenta.ru, in a statement published Friday explaining its decision to black out images in solidarity with Sinyakov, said the photographer was working on assignment for the website and carrying a press card when he was taken into custody.
Journalists gathered on Friday in Moscow in front of the offices of Russia’s Investigative Committee to protest the detention. International freedom of expression groups have demanded Sinyakov’s release, as well as the release of Kieron Bryan, a British national and freelance videographer working for Greenpeace who was among those detained on the Arctic Sunrise.
Prosecutors reportedly are still considering whether to charge Sinyakov and the others with piracy despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement last week that he did not think the activists were pirates. Greenpeace representatives, who maintain that the activists’ intentions were peaceful, have labelled the piracy accusation “absurd”.