Russia's Union of Journalists on Wednesday gave its support for a RIA Novosti photo correspondent fined by a court on the charges of participating in an unsanctioned opposition meeting.
Andrei Stenin was detained on December 12, 2009, while photographing an unsanctioned protest in front of the president administration's building that the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti had officially assigned him.
The court on Monday ordered the journalist to pay a 500-ruble (about $17) fine. It said Stenin was among the protesters who were standing in line holding 81/2 x 11 sheets of paper with letters which all together formed the phrase "Respect the Constitution!" in Russian.
Mikhail Fedotov, secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, said he was appalled by the court's decision.
"I'm shocked by the court's decision. I hoped our judges were aware of the law on mass media, which gives the journalist the right to attend any public gatherings," Fedotov said.
Fedotov said there had been cases before when journalists were detained and then released. However, the latest case was unprecedented as the journalist was charged by the court for covering a public gathering, he said.
Fedotov said the Russian Union of Journalists would support all journalists who would find themselves in similar situations and, in the first place, the RIA Novosti photo correspondent.
Stenin has denied the charges. He said he was performing his professional duties but not taking part in the demonstration when he was detained.
MOSCOW, January 20 (RIA Novosti)