(New York, NY) — Police in Russia this week raided the homes of a number of journalists from the independent investigative media outlet Proekt.Media, questioning and later releasing three of its journalists, as the outlet published a scathing corruption investigation into the country’s interior minister. PEN America today said the raids were a clear attack on press freedom.

“These raids are the just the latest salvo in the Russian authorities’ ongoing attacks on press freedom, which have seen an alarming crescendo in recent months,” said Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s Eurasia program director. “Harassment and attacks on journalists make very clear that the Russian authorities view the truths revealed by investigative journalism as a threat. As the Russian state works to protect those in power, Russian independent media is trying to protect the truth; they deserve the support of the international community as they conduct their vital work under severe pressure and intimidation by authorities.”

Police raided the home of Roman Badanin, editor-in-chief of Proekt.Media, seizing his computer and other property. Authorities also searched the home of Proekt.Media’s Maria Zholobova, confiscating her computer and other property. The outlet’s deputy editor-in-chief, Mikhail Rubin, was detained and taken to his parents apartment, which was also searched.

The raids purportedly stemmed from a 2017 defamation case—Badanin and Zholobova helped independent TV channel Dozhd in its production of a documentary about the alleged ties to organized crime of St. Petersburg businessman Ilya Traber. Proekt.Media staff, however, suspect that the raids were a reaction to the media outlet’s investigative report published this week questioning the wealth of Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and his family. Shortly after the raids began, the media outlet published that report online. 

In recent months, the Russian authorities have increased their pressure in silencing independent media by designated outlets including Meduza, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and VTimes as “foreign agents.” PEN America has previously criticized the Russian government’s labeling of such news organizations as ‘foreign agents’ and their threats to freedom of expression