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Russia should release Sochi blogger Alexander Valov

Tourists enjoy the the beach on the Black Sea with a view to the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, 28 June 2017
Tourists enjoy the the beach on the Black Sea with a view to the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, 28 June 2017

Lukas Schulze - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 24 January 2018.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate unconditional release of Alexander Valov, a popular blogger in Sochi, in southwestern Russia, on the grounds that no evidence has been produced to support the extortion charge on which he is being held.

Two days after BlogSochi editor Valov's arrest on 19 January 2018, a judge ordered him held provisionally for at least two months pending trial on a charge of trying to extort money from Yury Napso, a leading Sochi politician who is a representative in the Duma (Russian parliament).

But the charge against Valov, who is well-known for his often critical blog posts about the resort city's prominent residents, is based solely on a complaint filed by Napso's assistant, with no sworn statement, no material evidence and no statement by Napso himself.

"There is no basis for Alexander Valov's provisional detention," said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. "We call for the immediate release of this blogger, who has a right to a fair and impartial investigation of the charges against him."

Napso already sued Valov for defamation when the blogger accused him of appropriating a section of the beach in Sochi in order to build a private swimming pool. Valov was ordered to pay Napso 1,500,000 roubles (21,500 euros) in damages on appeal last month.

The situation of the media in Sochi was the subject of a report by RSF in 2013. Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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