(New York, NY) — The Russian government’s decision to outlaw the publisher of independent investigative media outlet Proekt by deeming it “undesirable” and the designation of Proekt’s chief editor, Roman Badanin and several other journalists as “foreign agents” are violations of press freedom and an impediment to the intrinsic right of free expression. PEN America condemns Russian officials’ attack on Proekt and urges the international community to speak out against Russia’s recent crackdown on independent news outlets. 

“These efforts to undermine Proekt and silence journalists of independent media represent a distressing blow to investigative journalism in Russia. The Putin regime is constantly reaching new levels of brazenness in its attacks on a free press, but it is only exposing its fear of public access to truthful reporting,” said Polina Sadovskaya, director of Eurasia programs at PEN America. “We condemn this ongoing assault on independent media in Russia, call for Proekt’s reinstatement, and stand by Badanin and all the courageous journalists who have to endure Putin’s current crusade against their profession.”

In accordance with a 2015 law that made membership in “undesirable” organizations a criminal offense, the Russian government has cracked down on more than 30 media groups. Moreover, anyone caught collaborating with prosecuted journalists or organizations can find themselves facing criminal charges. Journalists from Open Media and RFE/RL were also designated “foreign agents” yesterday. In recent months, independent outlets including Meduza and VTimes have dwindled in prominence after losing significant funding due to their designation as “foreign agents.” There are currently 15 media outlets and 13 people on the list of media-foreign agents in Russia.