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Joe Bergantino, co-founder of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, was detained by Russian authorities on a suspected visa violation this morning while at a journalism workshop in St. Petersburg. Authorities also detained Randy Covington, director of Newsplex at the University of South Carolina.
Bergantino and Covington were leading the workshop when Russian police arrived and asked to see their visas, said Beth Daley, a reporter for NECIR who has been in contact with Bergantino. The police then asked several questions and took a statement from Bergantino and Covington, who signed the statement and were told they could resume their workshop. However, the police returned shortly afterward and asked Bergantino and Covington to go with them to an immigration service office.
Bergantino and Covington were then transported to a Russian court where a judge ruled that they had violated an administrative law regarding the type of visa needed to conduct their workshop. They were not permitted to continue the workshop although they were allowed to stay in the country until their scheduled flights home.
NECIR is a non-profit news organization dedicated to watchdog journalism and is based at Boston University’s College of Communication. For further updates on this story, please visit the NECIR website or follow Daley on Twitter at @BethBDaley.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Please note that an earlier version of this press release mentioned that Bergantino and Covington were arrested and accused of “teaching an educational workshop illegally because they had the wrong visas.” They were not arrested, but detained for five hours. A judge ruled that they violated Russian administrative law regarding the type of visa needed to conduct their journalism workshop.