Police in Russia raided the home of the editor-in-chief of an investigative outlet that was recently designated a “foreign agent,” the latest step by the authorities to increase pressure on independent media ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections in September.
Roman Dobrokhotov, editor-in-chief of the news site The Insider, tweeted Wednesday morning that “the police are knocking” on his apartment door. “It looks like it’s a raid,” Dobrokhotov said.
OVD-Info, a legal aid group that monitors political arrests, said Dobrokhotov’s wife called the group’s hotline and reported a police raid before her phone became unavailable. A lawyer went to Dobrokhotov’s apartment, OVD-Info said.
Russian opposition supporters, independent journalists and human rights activists have faced increased pressure from the government ahead of the September vote, which is seen as an important part of President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to cement his rule earlier. of the presidential elections of 2024.
The 68-year-old Russian leader, who has been in power for more than two decades, pushed for constitutional changes last year that would potentially allow him to stay in power until 2036.
Since he first took office in May 2000, President Putin has regularly rolled back press freedoms. In 2006, a high-profile journalist and critic of Putin, Anna Politkovskaya, whose portrait can be seen in the photo above, was killed at her residence. Reporters Without Borders has ranked Russia 150th in the World Press Freedom Index 2021 for its “repressive apparatus.”
In recent months, the government has designated various independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents,” a label that carries additional government scrutiny and has strong pejorative overtones that could discredit the recipients.
Target outlets include VTimes and Meduza. VTimes subsequently shut down, citing the loss of advertisers, and Meduza launched a crowdfunding campaign after encountering the same problem.
The Insider, which is registered in Latvia and has published investigations into alleged corruption and abuse by Russian officials, alleged covert actions by Russia in Ukraine and Syria, and the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was the latest addition to the list.
The Ministry of Justice acted under a law that is used to designate non-governmental organizations, the media and individuals who receive foreign funding and engage in activities vaguely described as political as foreign agents.
In comments to the media, Dobrokhotov has said that The Insider will continue to operate as usual, in accordance with the laws of Latvia, and would not comply with the requirements of the foreign agent law.
Russia used the law to impose heavy fines on the US-funded radio station Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty for failing to identify its material as produced by foreign agents. The station has requested the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights.
Sergei Yezhov, a journalist for The Insider, tweeted that Dobrokhotov was supposed to leave Russia on Wednesday. Police also raided the home of Dobrokhotov’s parents, The Insider said.
According to the media outlet, the searches may be related to a defamation case started in April following a complaint by a Dutch journalist who The Insider had accused of working with Russian intelligence services.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism