Roman Badanin is founder and editor-in-chief of Agentstvo (The Agency, in English), a collaboration of journalists who have been targeted by the Russian government for their investigative reporting into the most powerful forces in their country.
Badanin started The Agency in the summer of 2021, after Russian authorities outlawed Proekt (The Project in English), the non-profit investigative news organization he founded in 2018.
The Kremlin declared Proekt an “undesirable” organization, which meant that Badanin, his colleagues and anyone who had dealings with Proekt, including sources, could face criminal prosecution. Over the previous three years, Badanin had led his team in publishing a series of investigations into secret financial ties between major business interests and top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin and his family. The Proekt has been recognized with several Russian and international journalism awards.
Shortly before the designation, police had raided Badanin’s apartment as well as the apartments of his deputy and a Proekt reporter, seizing their electronic devices and work materials. Badanin left Russia and helped members of his team relocate to nearby countries and resume working on their ongoing investigations.
During his senior fellowship, Badanin is focusing on finding alternative ways to produce and distribute deep investigative reporting on Russia’s ruling elite that gets around government censorship and intimidation efforts. Agentstvo is his first effort and he envisions it as a collaborative home for Russian investigative journalists, many of whom have over the last year been declared “foreign agents” by the government. While that is a less severe action than the “undesirable” organization designation, it has led multiple journalists to quietly move their base of operations outside of the country.
Badanin has been working as a journalist in leading independent Russian news organizations for 20 years. He previously was a deputy editor-in-chief at Gazeta.Ru, editor-in-chief at Forbes Digital (Russia), RBC news agency, and editor of Dozhd (TV Rain), an independent Russian TV channel.
Badanin created the Moscow-based Proekt during his 2018 JSK Fellowship, modeling it after the nonprofit U.S. investigative news outlet, ProPublica. It was Russia’s first nonprofit news organization.
Roman Badanin’s recent writings and public talks
- Opinion: This is what life is like when the Kremlin lists you as a ‘foreign agent’, The Washington Post
- The cost of Russia’s media crackdown, Prospect
- Opinion: Why we should care about Putin’s love life, The Washington Post
- Russian indie media needs visibility – that’s why the Pulitzer row matters, openDemocracy
- Where To Now? The New Challenges to Russian Independent Media, The Harriman Institute at Columbia University/YouTube
- The Perils of Defending Democracy: Perspectives from Around the World, McCain Institute Human Rights & Democracy Summit/YouTube