Russia / France2 July 2002
Prime minister Mikhail Kassyanov visits Paris
Eighteen Reporters Without Borders activists were arrested in Paris on 2 July as they were demonstrating for the release of Russian journalist Grigory Pasko outside the Hilton Hotel, while visiting Russian prime minister Mikhail Kassyanov was holding a press conference inside.
The protestors, some of them dressed in white and wearing masks, let off coloured smoke bombs and handed out leaflets before being arrested and taken to the nearest police station.
The military division of the Russian Supreme Court confirmed on 25 June a four-year prison sentence for "high treason" passed on Pasko after he reported seeing the Russian military dump nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan. Reporters Without Borders said it was appalled at the decision, which was a rejection of Pasko’s appeal against the sentence handed down on Christmas Day last year.
While he was a reporter in 1997 for the military newspaper Boevaya Vakhta aboard the Russian oil tanker TNT 27, he filmed liquid radioactive waste being dumped from the ship into the Sea of Japan. The pictures were shown on the Japanese TV station NHK and caused uproar in Japan. Pasko also wrote articles about pollution caused by the virtual abandonment of the Russian Navy’s old nuclear submarines and the involvement of the secret police in illegal sales of nuclear waste.
Last February, the Supreme Court said there was "no legal basis" for his conviction and this led to his appeal. Pasko, who had already spent 20 months in prison between 1997 and 1999 for "gathering state secrets with the aim of passing them on to foreign organisations," was jailed in Vladivostok after his conviction for high treason.
Reporters Without Borders considers what Pasko reported in 1997 to be public knowledge and therefore not state secrets. Russia’s press law says that "any journalist has the right to seek, request, receive and disseminate news" (Article 47). Under Articles 41 and 42 of the Russian Constitution, withholding information about the environment or disasters and thus putting human lives in danger is a criminal offence.
Reporters Without Borders notes that various French and Swiss media have declared their support for Pasko. They include (in France) the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, the daily paper France Soir and Radio France International and (in Switzerland) the newspaper Le Courrier. By adopting him, they have pledged to publicise his case.