New York, June 29, 2021 – Russian authorities should immediately drop their investigations into journalists at the investigative news website Proekt, and ensure that the members of the press can work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Today, Moscow police raided the apartments of Proekt chief editor Roman Badanin, deputy editor Mikhail Rubin, and correspondent Mariya Zholobova, and interrogated them, according to news reports and two of the journalists’ lawyers, who spoke with CPJ.
Officers confiscated two laptops from Badanin, a phone and a tablet from Rubin, and phones, computers, flash drives, and SIM cards from Zholobova, according to those reports and Vasiliy Kushnir, Zholobova’s lawyer, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
Police raided Badanin and Zholobova’s apartments at about 8 a.m. today, according to those reports and Kushnir. Police raided Rubin’s apartment this evening, and also searched his parents’ home, according to those reports and Artyom Nemov, Rubin’s lawyer, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
Police conducted the raids as part of a libel case over a 2017 documentary that Badanin and Zholobova contributed to, which accused a businessman of ties to organized crime, according to news reports.
However, Proekt published a statement today accusing police of initiating the raids to stop the publication of an investigation into alleged corrupt practices by Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev. That statement said that the raids occurred shortly after Proekt announced that investigation; while the raids were ongoing, the outlet published the investigation on its website and on YouTube.
“Russian authorities should immediately drop their investigation into Proekt and its journalists Roman Badanin, Mariya Zholobova, and Mikhail Rubin, return their equipment, and stop harassing them for their investigative reporting,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Law enforcement’s job should be to protect journalists, not to use the law to try and shut down independent voices.”
During the raid on Badanin’s apartment, officers did not allow Anna Bogatyryova, his lawyer, to enter the building, and only let her meet with her client after she called the police to complain, according to news reports.
After the searches, police interrogated all three journalists as witnesses, those reports said. Kushnir told CPJ that officers interrogated Zholobova at a local police station about her sources for the 2017 documentary, and the journalist declined to answer.
Nemov did not say what topics police questioned Rubin about; the search of the journalist’s apartment was ongoing when he spoke to CPJ. Those reports said that Badanin and Bogatyryova had both signed non-disclosure agreements.
Proekt’s website also briefly went offline this morning, according to reports.
CPJ emailed the Investigative Committee in Moscow and the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs for comment, but did not receive any replies. CPJ also emailed Kolokoltsev through the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ press service, but did not immediately receive any reply.