Investigative journalists say they started getting threats after reporting on Russian mercenaries
Journalists from the investigative website Proekt say they began receiving threats after they started looking into the operations of Russian mercenaries and political strategists in Africa and the Middle East. Proekt says it has reason to believe the combatants and consultants in question may be working for Evgeny Prigozhin, the Russian catering magnate who has been linked to businesses that produce “Internet trolls” and online fake news, as well as the “Wagner” private military company.
“It all began in the spring with threats arriving by email, and it’s now peaked,” Proekt editor-in-chief Roman Badanin told Reuters in an interview, guessing that the increased pressure is retaliation for Proekt’s late-September report about Russian mercenaries, allegedly from Wagner, fighting in the Libyan Civil War.
Badanin says his journalists received emails with “obscene, violent, and unpleasant” threats, and someone has tried to hack the reporters’ accounts on Facebook, Telegram, and Google. Moreover, St. Petersburg journalist Maria Karpenko, who’s worked with Proekt, told Reuters that she believes she was followed. Badanin says he cannot prove who is responsible for harassing his team.
Spokespeople for Evgeny Prigozhin’s catering company, “Concord,” has encouraged Proekt to turn to the police, if its staff feel threatened.
In November 2018, the news agency Bloomberg reported that Evgeny Prigozhin’s business interests include the security work and political campaigning in 10 African countries, including Libya.
In April 2019, the BBC Russian Service reported that Prigozhin allegedly financed the work of Russian political strategists in various African elections. The businessman’s representatives denied the allegations.