(New York, NY) — PEN America is deeply worried by reports of a raid on the offices of Doxa, a student-run journal based in Moscow, and on the residences of its staff that took place Wednesday morning. Doxa has often been critical of academia, and it supported students arrested during protests in Moscow in 2019. PEN America today said official attacks on the publication are a disturbing development in a cascade of recent crackdowns on free expression in Russia. 

In the early hours of April 14, police arrived to search the Doxa office, as well as the residences of Doxa editors Armen Aramyan, Vladimir Metelkin, Natalya Tyshkevich, and Alla Gutnikova. According to a statement on the Doxa website, police also searched the homes of Gutnikova and Aramyan’s parents. Police allegedly confiscated cellphones and computers from the editors’ homes and families. The editors were then detained for further questioning and will face trial on charges of “encouraging minors to take part in an illegal activity,” in response to their reporting on protests in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. 

The searches and detentions followed demands by Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal service overseeing mass media, that Doxa staff remove a video about student protest rights. In the video, Doxa’s editorial staff explained that the expulsion of students over participation in peaceful protests is illegal. Despite their compliance in removing the video, all four editors have been charged under Article 151 Section 2 of the Russian criminal code, which punishes adults who cause minors to commit antisocial and criminal acts that may endanger their lives. 

“Recent pressures and crackdowns on Russian independent journalists have been unquestionably disturbing, but going after these young journalists and their families is a new low, even for the Putin regime,” said Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia programs at PEN America. “Doxa has always stood for the right to free expression, and now the editorial staff is being punished for it. With this incident coming on the heels of the raids of journalist Roman Anin’s apartment and the iStories office, it is clear this crackdown is intensifying. The international community must do all it can to mobilize in support of free expression in Russia right now.”  

Government opposition to Doxa has mounted since the publication was founded four years ago. Originally created by a group of students and alumni at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, the journal lost its student organization status at HSE in December 2019. It has since operated as an independent media magazine, publishing texts about political and sociological academic thought, as well as critiques of contemporary Russian university structures. 

PEN Moscow president Alexander Arkhangelskiy and member Ilya Kukulin have also spoken in support of the young editors, sharing solidarity and hopes that they will soon be free.