Russia investigates journalist at online news outlet for ‘justifying terrorism’

(Reuters) – Investigators in Moscow said on Wednesday they had opened a criminal investigation into an editor at a news outlet which has regularly angered the authorities on suspicion of “publicly justifying terrorism”.

Moscow’s Investigative Committee, which handles serious crimes, said in a statement that it had begun a probe of Anna Loiko, a journalist with SOTA, an online outlet which is independent of the state and publishes mostly on the Telegram messaging app.

SOTA, whose founder and editor-in-chief have been branded “foreign agents” by the Russian authorities, has often covered protests and the trials of Kremlin critics which state media sometimes ignores.

Investigators said in a statement that an article written by Loiko in 2021 about the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia, had caught their attention because it had justified the ideology of an organisation Moscow regards as “terrorists.”

Loiko, who is outside Russia, said on SOTA that she denied justifying terrorism and would study investigators’ expert conclusions about her alleged wrongdoing “with pleasure.”

SOTA, who said the apartment of Loiko’s mother had been searched by investigators, said in a statement:

“The editorial board notes that, given the date of the article, the approaching presidential election, and the numerous threats we have received from various supporters of the authorities that we are talking about political pressure on the media.”

Russia, which is due to hold a presidential election next year and is still prosecuting a war in Ukraine, has conducted a sweeping crackdown on media it regards as hostile to the country’s interests and on political opposition it casts as dangerous and foreign-backed.

(Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Andrew Osborn)