A Russia-controlled court in occupied Crimea has decreased the sentence of veteran Crimean journalist Mykola Semena.
In September, the court convicted Semena of “separatism” and sentenced him to a 2.5-year suspended sentence and three years of probation, during which Semena would be forbidden to engage in “public activity.” In practice, this meant he would not be able to work as a journalist.
However, on December 18, the court upheld the sentence, but decreased the probationary period from three to two years, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
For over 50 years, Semena has worked as a correspondent and photographer, most recently for publications like the Ukrainian newspaper “Den” (“Day”) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. However, after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, he found himself in hot water for his independent journalism.
On April 19, 2016, a Russia-backed prosecutor in Crimea opened a criminal case against Semena based upon an article he wrote about Ukraine’s civic blockade of the peninsula. The prosecutor accused Semena of “threatening Russia’s territorial integrity.”
The nature of the case suggests that Semena was intentionally targeted by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The central evidence in the case was a series of screenshots taken of Semena’s computer desktop as he worked on articles. The FSB reportedly gathered the screenshots using a virus that infected the computer at Semena’s workplace, RFE/RL’s Krym Realii project and took the images.
Journalist unions, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Ukrainian authorities have all criticized the case against Semena.
/By Matthew Kupfer