Russia: Home searches of Proekt.Media journalists a shameless attack on media freedom

Reacting to the searches this morning of the homes of three journalists from the independent Russian investigative media outlet Proekt.Media, including its Editor-in-Chief Roman Badanin, Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, said:

“The Russian authorities respond to reports of top-level corruption with impressive severity and lightning speed – except that they persecute those who expose it. After Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation’s activities were officially labelled “extremist”, it comes as no surprise that journalists from Proekt.Media have had their homes raided by police – literally hours after they published their investigation into the alleged corrupt activities of the Interior Minister.

“This is another brazen attack on independent media and freedom of expression in Russia, and part of a systematic cleansing of any critical voices exposing the malpractices of those in power in the country. We demand an immediate termination of all criminal libel proceedings against journalists and an end to the state harassment of independent Russian media.”

This is another brazen attack on independent media and freedom of expression in Russia, and part of a systematic cleansing of any critical voices exposing the malpractices of those in power in the country
Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director

Background

In the early hours of 29 June 2021, officers from the police and the Investigative Committee searched the home of Proekt.Media’s Editor-in-Chief Roman Badanin, the home of the parents of his deputy, Mikhail Rubin, and that of reporter Maria Zholobova. Officials have confiscated Badanin’s and Zholobova’s computers and other digital devices. Roman Badanin was later questioned and formally named a criminal suspect in an historic libel case.

The day before, Proekt.Media announced the publication of its investigation into the allegedly unlawful enrichment of the family of Russia’s current Interior Minister, Vladimir Kolokoltsev.

According to the journalists’ lawyers, the criminal libel case was opened with regard to a 2017 documentary into the alleged collusion between Russia’s top government officials and politicians, including President Vladimir Putin, with alleged leaders of organized crime. The documentary was aired on TV Rain, an independent news channel, when Roman Badanin was its Editor-in-Chief.

Amnesty International believes that the latest searches are a continuation of the crackdown campaign against independent media launched earlier this year.