Paris, April 25, 2023—Russian authorities should immediately return all equipment confiscated from the independent news website Arkticheskiy Obozrevatel and two of its journalists and stop harassing members of the press for their reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On April 20, police in the northwestern port city of Murmansk searched the editorial office of Arkticheskiy Obozrevatel (Artic Observer), as well as the homes of editor-in-chief Vyacheslav Gorodetskiy and reporter Dmitry Artemenko, according to multiple news reports, a Telegram post by the outlet, and a person familiar with the case who communicated with CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
Law enforcement seized four mobile phones, four computers, and an unknown number of memory cards from the outlet and the journalists, who both signed nondisclosure agreements. The searches were connected to a slander case in which the journalists are witnesses, the person familiar with the situation told CPJ, saying that the confiscated equipment had not been returned as of April 25.
“Russian authorities should drop all attempts to intimidate and silence Arkticheskiy Obozrevatel and its journalists,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Authorities should immediately return all equipment confiscated from the outlet and its staff, and refrain from hindering the work of one of the few remaining independent news websites in the country.”
Gorodetskiy and Artemenko said they would appeal the legality of the searches, those reports said.
In January 2023, the outlet’s Telegram channel posted information about an alleged corruption scheme in Murmansk, referring to a report published by the investigative outlet Rucriminal.info, according to media reports and the person who spoke to CPJ.
News reports said that authorities had received a complaint over that post but did not identify who had filed it. The person who spoke with CPJ said they believed it was likely one of the several government officials mentioned that post. Police opened an investigation, and the journalists were summoned twice to testify about the post.
Arkticheskiy Obozrevatel critically covers social and political issues in Russia’s Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions, the Komi and Karelia republics, and the Nenets Autonomous District, according to CPJ’s review of its content. Since its founding in 2020, local officials and pro-government bloggers have publicly criticized and verbally attacked the outlet in connection to its reporting, according to news reports and the person who spoke to CPJ.
CPJ’s email to the Russian Investigative Committee’s Murmansk branch did not receive a response.