Chief editors and journalists of major UK media outlets have urged the immediate release of British freelance journalist Kieron Bryan, who is being held in Russia on piracy charges following a Greenpeace Arctic oil rig protest.
So far, some 1,250 journalists have signed a petition which calls
on Russian authorities to free 29-year-old Bryan.
The freelance videographer was arrested in September along with other crew members aboard Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise vessel. The activists were staging a protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea.
All 30 crew members - who hail from 18 different countries - were put in pre-trial detention in the city of Murmansk, northern Russia. They were charged with piracy, a crime that can carry a penalty of up to 15 years in jail.
The authors of the petition underline that Bryan is neither an activist nor a member of Greenpeace.
“Kieron is simply a freelance journalist who was just doing his job. Please consider that Kieron was filming an event, as he would film any event in his work as a journalist. Kieron films videos for news groups, charities, schools and many other organisations,” they said. “He is not a pirate.”
In the opinion of journalists, it is “unfair” that the videographer “has been locked up for documenting an event.”
Among the petition signees are the chief editors of The Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, and The Sun, as well as the head of BBC News.
British journalists are planning a protest in front of the Russian embassy in London on November 2, news website Lenta.ru reported, citing a letter by Russel Bryan, the videographer’s brother.
Earlier in October, the Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights applied to the country’s Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika, asking him to reconsider the charges against the Arctic Sunrise crew members. The head of the council, Mikhail Fedotov, said earlier that the charges were “groundless” since it was absolutely “obvious” that activists’ actions were not aimed at seizing the oil platform or the property. The council has not yet received a response, Fedotov said on Monday.