Direct links Why were Proekt’s journalists labeled ‘foreign agents’? For sharing posts about Meduza and VTimes, says Russia’s Justice Ministry.

Journalists Sonya Groisman and Olga ChurakovaSemen Katz for Meduza

Months after adding four Proekt journalists to its “foreign agent” registry, the Russian Justice Ministry has finally clarified the formal basis for this decision. The justifications were listed in the written objections the ministry submitted to Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court, which is considering the journalists’ administrative claims demanding the repeal of their “foreign agent” status. The court hearings began on Monday, November 8, with both sides presenting evidence in the cases. The court allocated just 15 minutes for each hearing. 

Russia’s Justice Ministry is asking the Zamoskvoretsky District Court to dismiss administrative claims filed by four former Proekt journalists, who are seeking the repeal of their “foreign agent” status. According to the ministry, the journalists’ arguments are without merit. Allegedly they were designated as “foreign agents” in full compliance with federal legislation, and this in no way violates their rights and freedoms.

Notably, the objections the Justice Ministry submitted to the court contained the formal justifications for blacklisting the four journalists as “foreign agents.”

According to the documents — obtained by Meduza, — the Justice Ministry designated journalist Yulia Lukyanova as a “foreign agent” for two reasons:

From January to March 2021, she received money transfers to her Sberbank account from the Irish company Citibank Europe;Between July 2020 and July 2021, she shared three social media posts that mentioned Meduza and VTimes — news outlets the Justice Ministry designated as “foreign agents” in April and May 2021, respectively. (Lukyanova retweeted one of Meduza’s news briefs, shared a Facebook post calling for support for VTimes, and shared another Facebook post asking for donations to support Meduza). 

Journalist Maria Zheleznova, the Justice Ministry maintains, received money transfers from Citibank, and shared four Facebook posts that mentioned Meduza (two of which were shared posts with links to Meduza’s website) and VTimes (a personal post in support of the news outlet).

Journalist Olga Churakova ended up on Russia’s “foreign agents” list for sharing a single post from VTimes on Facebook with the comment: “What to read in Russia today.”

Finally, according to the Justice Ministry, journalist Sonya Groisman received money transfers from abroad and shared two incriminating social media posts: one linking to an article by Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL’s Russian service, which was designated as a “foreign agent” in 2017), and another about Meduza that contained “a direct link to a fundraising site in support of the publication.”

“Of course, I never doubted for a second that comrade major didn’t even try to find at least some decent reasons for my foreign agent [status], but even such a frivolous job is frustrating: I reposted a [post] from my best friend, asked to support Meduza — a foreign agent, and I also have Facebook friends, the end!” Groisman commented on the Justice Ministry’s reasoning. 

The Russian Attorney General’s Office banned the investigative outlet Proekt as an “undesirable organization” in July 2021. In turn, the Justice Ministry added Proekt editor-in-chief Roman Badanin to its “foreign-agent media” registry, along with four other Proekt journalists. The investigative outlet later rebranded under the name Agentsvo (The Agency). 

Russia’s “foreign agent” legislation is absurd and unconstitutional. You can sign a petition demanding its repeal here! 

about ‘foreign agent’ status

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