DOXA

Russia: Police searches at student magazine are a new low for press freedom

Responding to a wave of raids and searches in the office of Russian student magazine DOXA and in the apartments of its staff, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:

“Today the authorities have stooped to a new low as they tighten their grip on media perceived to be disloyal to the Kremlin. From slowly suffocating these outlets with economic penalties or forcing their owners to self-censorship, they have moved to an all-out attack on journalists and other media workers. Silencing those brave enough to speak up – including students – shuts down the future of press freedom in Russia.

From slowly suffocating these outlets with economic penalties or forcing their owners to self-censorship, [the Russian authorities] have moved to an all-out attack on journalists and other media workers

Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director

“A few days ago, police broke into the apartment of Roman Anin, one of the country’s leading investigative journalists, and interrogated him overnight. Now, they’ve knocked down the doors to the apartments of journalists of a student magazine and moved to prosecute them. The brazen targeting of the DOXA journalists and Roman Anin is clearly politically motivated and a chilling reminder of the broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Russia.

“The Russian authorities’ intention is transparent. Investigations into corruption will not be tolerated, mobilizing youth to actively and peacefully participate in society will be prosecuted, and those journalists and media outlets who receive foreign funding will be ostracized and labelled as ‘foreign agents.”

The Russian authorities’ intention is transparent. Investigations into corruption will not be tolerated, mobilizing youth to actively and peacefully participate in society will be prosecuted

Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director

Background

On the morning of 14 April, security officers conducted searches at the office of the student online magazine DOXA, in the apartments of four of its staff, and in the homes of parents of two of the journalists. According to their lawyer, the basis for the searches was a video message from DOXA staff members posted on 23 January ahead of protests against the imprisonment of Aleksei Navalny. In the video, the journalists called on the authorities to stop intimidating students who take part in the protests. They also encouraged young people to defend their right to peaceful assembly, join human rights groups and organize with fellow students.

The DOXA editor-in-chief, Armen Aramyan, and three journalists, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin, and Natalia Tyshkevich, were later charged with “involvement of minors in the commission of acts that pose a danger to the minor’s life” (Article 151.2 of the Criminal Code). It carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment. The court has been requested to place them under house arrest, prohibit them from using the internet and communicate with anyone other than family members and lawyers.

On 9 April, Roman Anin, the editor-in-chief of Vazhnye Istorii, an investigative site, was searched and interrogated for seven hours overnight in connection with a criminal case under Article 137(2) of the Criminal Code (“violation of privacy”). Anin was later summoned for another interrogation on 13 April. The case was opened at the request of the then-wife of the head of the state-run oil company Rosneft, Igor Sechin, who, according to an article Anin wrote, had links to a yacht valued at US$100 million.