This is yet another attack on press freedom in Russia. The Russian prosecution banned, Thursday, July 15, the young and famous investigative media Project, the declarer “Unwanted” and considering that his “Activities pose a threat to the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation”. The prosecution considers this media to be an American organization.
According to a law promulgated in 2015, foreign organizations active in Russia can be declared “Unwanted”. They must self-dissolve under penalty of being banned and their collaborators may face fines or prison terms.
Almost simultaneously, the Russian justice ministry classified the editor-in-chief of Project, Roman Badanine, and four other media journalists on his list of groups and individuals designated as “foreign agents”, a name that exposes them to heavy bureaucratic constraints on pain of fines.
Founded in 2018, the online media Project is known for his investigations into the corruption of Russian elites. In particular, he published several long surveys on extremely wealthy collaborators of President Vladimir Putin.
Repeated pressure on independent media
The Russian authorities have increased pressure on the independent media in recent months, in particular in the run-up to the legislative elections in September and in the context of the return to Russia, in January, of the number one opponent of the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny, who was immediately imprisoned.
Critics of power accuse the Russian authorities of having muzzled or suppressed the media during Mr. Putin’s two decades in power. Latest examples to date, the renowned online media Jellyfish, based in Latvia, was declared in April as a “foreign agent”, an infamous qualifier that involves heavy constraints and potential fines, which cut off significant advertising resources.
In June, another media, VTimes, announced its closure for fear of prosecution, after being classified, too, “foreign agent”. At the end of June, searches had already taken place at the homes of several journalists from Project, notably at Roman Badanine.
The organizations of Alexeï Navalny, in particular his Fund for the fight against corruption (FBK), whose videos denounce the corruption of the elites, accumulate hundreds of millions of views on YouTube, have been declared “Extremists”, and most of the opponent’s relatives are in exile.
The status of“Unwanted” was mainly attributed to NGOs or political organizations, notably linked to the ex-Russian ex-oligarch in exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Several American think tanks are also included, such as the Atlantic Council group, which specializes in international affairs.