Person of the Week: Zoya Svetova

posted 5 Mar 2017, 08:47 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Mar 2017, 08:49 ]
On 28 February 2017 police searched the family home of respected journalist and human rights activist Zoya Svetova. According to Svetova, the law enforcement officers entered the premises on false pretences, saying they were delivering a court summons. They proceeded to search the property for ten hours and seized computer equipment and a phone. As RFE/RL reported, the lawyer Anna Stavitskaya wrote on Facebook on 28 February that an investigator and 10 other people were conducting a search in Svetova's home: "Stavitskaya said the search, which included examination of Svetova's computers, was linked to a continuing investigation into Khodorkovsky and other former officials of Yukos, the oil company he headed." Mikhail Khodorkovsky served ten years in prison and the Yukos oil company was seized and broken up. Zoya Svetova writes regularly for the website of the Open Russia organization, funded by Khodorkovsky, and the New Times magazine. Oliver Carroll, writing in The Moscow Times, reported that Zoya Svetova "has grown famous for aggressive investigations on subjects like corruption, activism, and torture. As an activist, she made her mark as a critic of the penal system and a defender of political prisoners’ rights. But her name is equally synonymous with the dissident movement in general. She is the daughter of persecuted Soviet writer Felix Svetov and has a wide circle of friends in Moscow’s liberal intelligentsia."

As Oliver Carroll reported, Svetova told journalists it was not the first time authorities had searched her family home: "The previous occasion, she said, was in early 1985, when the Soviet police state was at its peak. They arrested her father that day. 'Just imagine: Thirty years pass, and once again you get the knock on your door,' Svetova said. 'When they were looking through the apartment, they even found the original search protocol and recognized the colleagues who had signed it — I’d thought they were long dead.' "

Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia, said the search of Zoya Svetova’s flat was "deeply alarming." He said: "This search seems like a blatant attempt by the authorities to interfere with her legitimate work as a journalist and perhaps a warning for her and others of the risks of human rights work and independent journalism in Russia.”

Front Line Defenders called the search "an act of intimidation in retaliation to her coverage of human rights violations in the Russian Federation." The organization urged the Russian authorities to immediately cease all further harassment of Zoya Svetova and return all items confiscated during the search. More generally, the organization urged the Russian authorities to "cease targeting all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment."

Photo of Zoya Svetova: Front Line Defenders

'Russian Police Search Home Of Prominent Russian Journalist, Activist.' RFE/RL, 28 February 2017
Oliver Carroll, 'Then They Came for Svetova,' The Moscow Times, 1 March 2017
'Russia: "Deeply alarming" raid targets human rights activist and journalist Zoya Svetova,' Amnesty International, 28 February 2017
'Authorities search Zoya Svetova's apartment,' Front Line Defenders, 2 March 2017