‘Unprecedented pressure’ Police raid Russian student journal’s office and its editors’ homes
On Wednesday, April 14, police officers in Moscow raided the office of the independent student journal Doxa, as well as the homes of its editors. The four student journalists were taken in for questioning, and their cellphones and laptops were seized. Now, they are facing criminal charges for allegedly involving minors in unauthorized protests — this comes after Russia’s censorship agency ordered the outlet to take down a video explaining that students shouldn’t be afraid to express their political opinions.
On the morning of April 14, police officers raided the office of the student journal Doxa and the homes of the outlet’s editors. Officers searched the homes of Doxa editor-in-chief Armen Aramyan, as well as editors Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin, and Natasha Tyshkevich. According to Tyshkevich, the police officers broke down the door to her apartment; the police also searched the apartments of Aramyan and Gutnikova’s parents. After the raids, all four editors were taken to the Investigative Committee headquarters for interrogation. Law enforcement officers also seized their cellphones and laptops.
The four editors are facing criminal charges for allegedly involving minors in unauthorized protests. State investigators are seeking preventive measures banning them from certain actions for a two-month period, and have submitted the corresponding petitions to Moscow’s Basmanny Court. Doxa’s editors have been charged within the framework of a criminal case that was launched on January 22 — the same case in which Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov, who lives abroad, was charged in absentia in February.
The criminal investigation is likely linked to a video that Doxa published on January 23, said lawyer Pavel Chikov. In the video, the journalists explained that university administrators threatening to expel students for taking part in pro-Navalny demonstrations is illegal. Three days later, Russia’s censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, ordered Doxa to delete the video on the grounds that it contained calls to participate in unsanctioned protests. Doxa complied with the decision, but filed a lawsuit against Roskomnadzor, which has yet to be considered in court.
Doxa’s editors issued a statement in connection with the police raids, underscoring that the publication disagrees with Roskomnadzor’s order to remove the video because it didn’t contain calls for illegal actions, but rather talked about the fact that one shouldn’t be afraid to voice one’s opinion. “The pressure that the journalistic community has faced recently is unprecedented, but we will not stop our activity. We will continue to shed light on what is important to young people, and we will continue to advocate for their rights,” the statement says.
The Doxa journal was created by students and alumni of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) and other universities in 2017. The outlet positions itself as “a journal about the modern university and the problems of social and humanitarian knowledge.” Among other things, Doxa covers the political persecution of Russian university students — for example, the outlet organized aid for students who were arrested amid the demonstrations calling for fair elections during the Moscow City Duma race in the summer of 2019. Later that year, HSE stripped the journal of its status as a student organization due to a critical article about Russian State Social University Rector Natalia Pochinok’s campaign for a Moscow City Duma seat.
The raids at the Doxa office are the second investigative action against independent journalists in the past week. On April 9, FSB officers spent seven hours searching the apartment of Roman Anin, the editor-in-chief of the investigative outlet IStories. After the raid, they took him away for interrogation that night. The search was carried out in connection with a criminal investigation into invasion of privacy launched in 2016 at the request of Olga Sechina — the then-wife of Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin. This came after Anin, who was a reporter for Novaya Gazeta at the time, published an article claiming that Sechin’s wife owned a $100 million yacht. Anin is currently a witness in the case. Searches were also carried out at the IStories office, though none of the outlet’s staff members were there at the time.
Update. Later in the day on Wednesday, Moscow’s Basmanny Court placed Doxa editors Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin, and Natasha Tyshkevich under 24-hour house arrest until June 14. They are also forbidden from communicating with anyone except their lawyers and close relatives, without written permission from state investigators. This ban includes online communications.
Translation by Eilish Hart