Russian Journalist Maria Ponomarenko: For writing on social media about a devastating strike by Russian jets on a theatre in Ukraine, Russian journalist Maria Ponomarenko was sentenced to six years in prison. She was found guilty of distributing “false news” by a Siberian court in Barnaul as a result of new rules intended to silence opposition to the invasion of Ukraine.
Additionally, she was prohibited from working as a journalist for five years. When the Mariupol theatre was bombed in March of last year, hundreds of civilians perished. Weeks after the bombing, in April of last year.
Ponomarenko was jailed for stating that the strike had been carried out by Russian airplanes despite the Russian defense ministry’s denial.
Russian Journalist Maria Ponomarenko Jailed as per BBC News
Russian journalist Maria Ponomarenko jailed for highlighting Mariupol killings https://t.co/F3w0KCEL0C
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) February 15, 2023
She is one of many Russian dissidents who are being imprisoned for opposing the conflict in Ukraine.
When Russian fighter planes struck the theatre, 1,200 civilians were inside looking for refuge. According to an Associated Press investigation, more than 600 people were actually slain, contrary to Ukrainian officials who estimate 300 deaths. The basement contained many of the bodies.
Russian forces committed a war crime, according to Amnesty International, while the international watchdog OSCE stated it was no evidence to support Russian claims that a Ukrainian battalion had blown up the theatre.
Within days after the invasion, according to the prosecution, Maria Ponomarenko circulated “knowingly false information” about the Russian armed troops.
Speaking to the court before receiving her punishment, she emphasized that she had done nothing wrong in violation of Russian law: “Had I committed a real crime, then I would be able to plead for leniency, but again, due to my moral and ethical values, I would not do this.”
She concluded her speech by identifying herself as a patriotic opposition pacifist and adding that no totalitarian dictatorship had ever been as powerful as it was just before it fell.
According to her lawyer, the journalist and activist, who is a mother of two small children, has experienced mental health issues while incarcerated. Last year, she compared the conditions of her pre-trial incarceration to torture.
Alexei Gorinov, a councilman from Moscow, was sentenced to seven years in prison last summer after being caught on camera speaking out against Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
A UN working panel demanded his release earlier this week after finding that his incarceration was arbitrary and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Ilya Yashin, one of the most well-known opposition figures in Russia, was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in December for disseminating “fake news” about the military after he took to YouTube to denounce the murder of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians by Russian occupiers in Bucha, close to Kyiv.
Who is Russian Journalist Maria Ponomarenko?
Maria Ponomarenko is a Russian journalist known for her critical reporting on political and social issues in Russia. She was born in Moscow in 1984 and graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in journalism.
Ponomarenko began her career in 2005 as a journalist for the Russian newspaper Kommersant, where she covered politics and economics. In 2011, she joined the independent media outlet Dozhd (Rain) TV, where she worked as a reporter and presenter.
In 2014, Ponomarenko became known for her coverage of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where she reported from the front lines and interviewed soldiers and civilians affected by the war.
Her reporting on the conflict earned her international recognition and a nomination for the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation.
In 2017, Ponomarenko left Dozhd and joined the Russian edition of the investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat. There, she continued to report on political and social issues, including corruption, propaganda, and disinformation in the Russian media.
Ponomarenko has faced harassment and threats for her reporting, including being labeled a “traitor” by pro-Kremlin media outlets. Despite these challenges, she has continued to be a vocal advocate for press freedom and independent journalism in Russia.
Today, Ponomarenko is considered one of Russia’s leading investigative journalists, known for her courage and commitment to exposing the truth.
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