‘This is because of Proekt’ Russian journalist Elizaveta Surnacheva on being labeled a ‘foreign agent’
Russia’s Justice Ministry has developed a habit of announcing “foreign agent” designations on Friday evenings. October 8 was no exception. The Justice Ministry announced a total of 12 additions to the list: nine individuals and three media organizations (including the investigative project Bellingcat). Current Time TV correspondent Elizaveta Surnacheva, the former deputy editor-in-chief of the investigative outlet Proekt, is among the journalists who were blacklisted. In her own words, she tells Meduza how she received the news.
I was lying in bed, eating pizza, and watching Netflix — because I have that luxury. Suddenly, I saw a message on my phone that said “Liza, I love you.” I thought, “Hell, I’m not dead yet, what is this about on a Friday evening?” I opened my phone and it was flooded with messages like, “Liza, Liza, hell, what’s happening?” That’s how I found out.
I’m in Kyiv and I'm going to live here somehow. Now, I want to talk to a lawyer to find out what to do and what not to do. I’m torn — on the one hand, I’m in Kyiv and I really don’t need this whole song and dance. On the other hand, I want to go to Russia — I have friends and family there, and I don’t want to cut myself off from my homeland completely. And in this case, ignoring the law would be a pretty stupid decision.
In terms of challenging [my “foreign agent” status], I do have a sense of justice, of needing to fight this in court, show proof…But I’ve worked as a journalist long enough and I’ve written enough — including about “foreign agent” status — to know that all of this is futile, a waste of time and paper. And I support the environment, after all.
There’s an understanding that this is because of Proekt. [Journalists] Andrey Zakharov and Daniil Sotnikov also ended up on the list because of Proekt, I think (Like Surnacheva, Zakharov and Sotnikov used to work for Proekt, an investigative outlet Russia outlawed as an “undesirable organization” in July). And [Mass Media Defense Center director] Galina Arapova, she herself defended all of the “foreign agents.” Obviously, they were looking for those associated with Proekt. Or perhaps someone didn’t like me personally, nobody has explained anything to me.
Since Current Time TV, where I currently work, is a “foreign agent,” they probably have some people who know their way around this situation. But I still haven’t really talked to anyone else, I didn’t even have time to finish my pizza.
Abridged translation by Eilish Hart