This post is not about inves­ti­ga­tions, but about those who do them.  Our col­leagues and friends from The Project. The best, bright­est and fear­less. About those, whose friend­ship our Com­mu­ni­ty of Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ists – Fond 19/29 is proud of, whom we glad­ly quote, from whom we urge to learn. 

Gali­na Sidoro­va. Ages ago, now, it seems, in anoth­er life, when we found­ed our first project for the sup­port of inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists, we explained the mean­ing of the num­bers in its name. 19 — num­ber of the Arti­cle of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights men­tion­ing “the right to free­dom of opin­ion and expres­sion, includ­ing free­dom to seek, receive and impart infor­ma­tion and ideas through any media and regard­less of fron­tiers”; 29 — Arti­cle in the Russ­ian Con­sti­tu­tion, which repro­duces this para­graph vir­tu­al­ly ver­ba­tim. It seemed very impor­tant to us then to empha­size this. It still seems so now. Although that coun­try with rudi­ments of democ­ra­cy and polit­i­cal free­doms no longer exists. Rudi­ments of democ­ra­cy have been tram­pled. That Con­sti­tu­tion is no more. And Arti­cle 29 in its remain­ing emas­cu­lat­ed ver­sion looks like a mock­ery of reality.

A dic­ta­tor­ship rules the ball, a spite­ful and hyp­o­crit­i­cal dic­ta­tor­ship. The dic­ta­tor­ship does not need inde­pen­dent thinkers and media hon­est­ly inform­ing soci­ety. It needs infor­mants like Mr. Borodin who told on our col­leagues from The Project to “Com­rade Pros­e­cu­tor” under the pre­text that jour­nal­ists are engaged in sab­o­tage, while every­thing in the coun­try should be “qui­et­ly calm”. 

“Qui­et­ly calm” with such jour­nal­ists is not an option. Just remem­ber the “heroes” of Pro­jec­t’s inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism dis­turbed over the past year:  Arkady Roten­berg and Yuri Kovalchuk, both bil­lion­aires and friends of Putin; Vik­tor Zolo­tov, head of the Ros­g­var­dia and for­mer body­guard of Putin; Dmit­ry Medvedev, for­mer prime min­is­ter and now deputy chair­man of the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil; Ramzan Kady­rov, head of Chech­nya; Vladimir Kolokolt­sev, Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter; and Vladimir Putin him­self. All of these inves­ti­ga­tions are thor­ough­ly doc­u­ment­ed and pro­fes­sion­al­ly reasoned. 

This “com­mu­ni­ty of heroes” was silent for a long time before it came togeth­er with a “reply” in the spir­it of “pun­ish­ing the inno­cent and reward­ing the unin­volved”. Hence­forth, jour­nal­ism in Rus­sia is an unde­sir­able pro­fes­sion. And jour­nal­ists are unde­sir­able cit­i­zens. Espe­cial­ly those who inde­pen­dent­ly inves­ti­gate, inde­pen­dent­ly think and inform the pub­lic pre­vent­ing the author­i­ties from rest­ing on the lau­rels of cor­rup­tion and lawlessness. 

Alex­ei Shlya­puzh­nikov. Hav­ing stomped out inde­pen­dent par­ties and non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions from the polit­i­cal are­na, the Russ­ian state has launched a sys­tem­at­ic attack on inde­pen­dent media. One by one, the most wide­ly read media out­lets that enjoy the trust of the Russ­ian-speak­ing audi­ence have been list­ed as for­eign agents. The same fate befalls the bright­est and fear­less jour­nal­ists, who are brand­ed as for­eign agents by the author­i­ties in their per­son­al capacity.

Inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism is the most dif­fi­cult genre in our pro­fes­sion and, in all like­li­hood, the most dan­ger­ous for an author­i­tar­i­an polit­i­cal sys­tem. The Project, a team of tal­ent­ed and very pro­duc­tive inves­ti­ga­tors, was decid­ed not to be des­ig­nat­ed as a “for­eign agent”, but was imme­di­ate­ly made an “unde­sir­able”.  The deci­sion of the Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al’s Office of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion reads as fol­lows: “pos­es a threat to the foun­da­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion­al order and secu­ri­ty of the Russ­ian Federation”. 

Let’s make it clear: the threat to the foun­da­tions of the sys­tem comes from inves­ti­ga­tions into how mil­lions of cubic meters of tim­ber are stolen, how mil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars are plun­dered from the state bud­get, how region­al “princes” and “padishahs” are build­ing their own pock­et states with pock­et armies and banks inside Rus­sia. Once again: the threat, as it turns out, is not these facts them­selves, but the pro­fes­sion­al and ded­i­cat­ed work of jour­nal­ists who open soci­ety’s eyes to these crimes.

By destroy­ing inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism and out­law­ing inves­tiga­tive report­ing, the sys­tem vol­un­tar­i­ly cuts off its own eyes and ears. It does not want to see and hear for itself and to allow oth­ers to see and hear how the cor­rupt pyra­mid of mod­ern Russ­ian state­hood, hasti­ly built by for­mer Com­mu­nists and Chek­ists on the ruins of the Sovi­et Union, is rot­ting, falling apart and crack­ing at the seams. It is very much like the chil­dren’s game, “I’m in the house”, except that unlike the chil­dren’s ver­sion, the state will inevitably lose. And jour­nal­ism will remain, because, unlike the gov­ern­ment, Russ­ian cit­i­zens do not want to par­tic­i­pate in this game, want­i­ng to hear, see and know what and how is hap­pen­ing in their coun­try, in their regions, in their cities and on their streets. Since there are those who want to know, there will always be those who can pro­vide this knowledge.

Veroni­ka Shlya­puzh­niko­va. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, what hap­pened to The Project is not an iso­lat­ed sto­ry and, I’m afraid, will not be the last. It is unlike­ly that the Russ­ian author­i­ties or “silovics” were fright­ened by the pub­li­ca­tions of the “unde­sir­able Project”. But they feel uncom­fort­able. They are uncom­fort­able with the fact that their deeds are known. They are uncom­fort­able that an unin­vit­ed jour­nal­ist dared to break into their well-fed world. They ate uncom­fort­able that inves­ti­ga­tors throw the truth in their faces. 

Even if the jour­nal­is­tic inves­ti­ga­tions do not result into crim­i­nal cas­es against its pro­tag­o­nists, it is impor­tant and nec­es­sary to make the cor­rupt offi­cials them­selves ner­vous from time to time, read­ing the truth about them­selves. So that any­one who decides to com­mit a crime under­stands: jour­nal­ists will find out, present evi­dence, and pub­lish it. 

I believe that Badan­in’s team will not give up, the col­leagues will become even more metic­u­lous. I believe that The Project will not end.

Grig­o­ry Pasko. Of course, per­se­cu­tion of jour­nal­ists for their pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ties did not begin yes­ter­day. Our col­leagues have been beat­en, jailed, killed…

Almost all cas­es of bar­bar­ic and crim­i­nal atti­tude towards jour­nal­ists in Rus­sia, if not car­ried out by the state, were in fact encour­aged by it. That is why cas­es of such atti­tude only mul­ti­ply. This is why the roll of repres­sions against our col­leagues will move on. 

We do not only express our sol­i­dar­i­ty with those per­se­cut­ed because we our­selves have been in such sit­u­a­tions many times. We are con­vinced that the work of inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists is impor­tant for the whole of Rus­sia, for its present and its future. Those who wage war against jour­nal­ists under­mine the foun­da­tions of the con­sti­tu­tion­al sys­tem of the coun­try: Arti­cle 29 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion is still not can­celled, and it states that every­one has the right to freely seek, receive, trans­mit, pro­duce and dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion by any legal means and that free­dom of mass infor­ma­tion is guar­an­teed in the country. 

Some Russ­ian media projects had to reg­is­ter out of Rus­sia not out of mali­cious inten­tions. And it is not out of fear that they are now forced to declare that they are in the process of liq­ui­da­tion and change their form of existence.

For now, one thing remains the strongest and most cer­tain: jour­nal­is­tic inves­ti­ga­tions won’t stop. And this is what the team of The Project has declared. 

Col­leagues, we stand by you!