Russian journalist targeted by the Kremlin named senior JSK Fellow at Stanford

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A Russian journalist whose investigative news outlet was recently banned by the Kremlin has been named a John S. Knight Senior International Journalism Fellow. 

Roman Badanin will spend the next 10 months at Stanford, focusing on finding alternative ways to continue producing the sort of deep investigative reporting that led Russian authorities to declare his nonprofit Proekt (The Project) an “undesirable” organization. The designation, the first for a Russian news organization, forced its shutdown. Under recent changes to the Russian law creating the designation, people who work with an “undesirable” organization can face up to four years in prison and those found to be “organizing the activities” of the organization can be jailed for up to six years. 

The government also labeled Badanin and four of his staff “foreign agents,” which subjected them to several restrictions related to their work and finances, including a requirement that they label any writing as being produced by a foreign agent. 

“The intimidation and harassment that he faced for doing important journalism in Russia was sobering, and in a climate that is only getting worse for independent media,” said JSK Director Dawn Garcia. “Our goal is to provide Roman with a safe space and the direct support of the JSK Fellowships and the Stanford community to accelerate the impact of his courageous investigative work.”

Badanin was on a long-planned family vacation outside of Russia when the designation was announced and decided not to return because he anticipated he would be arrested and unfairly prosecuted. He’s been working to help members of his Proekt team also leave the country. 

“I am committed to finding ways to continue independent journalism that serves the Russian people and that can help all of the independent Russian journalists who are fighting against these attempts to stop our work,” Badanin said. “I believe that through this opportunity at JSK and Stanford, we will become even stronger than before.” 

Badanin was a 2017-18 JSK Journalism Fellow and it was during that program that he decided to create a nonprofit investigative news organization, modeled after outlets such as ProPublica. He assembled a team of Russian journalists and launched the Moscow-based Proekt, at the time the only nonprofit news outlet in the country. 

Over the next three years, Badanin 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.  

In late June, Moscow police raided Badanin’s apartment, as well as the apartments of his deputy editor and a reporter, seizing their laptops, phones, other electronic devices and reporting materials. They also interrogated the journalists. The raids occurred one day after Proekt began promoting the upcoming publication of an investigation into the assets of Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev and his family. 

The moves against Proekt are part of a broader crackdown on independent journalism in Russia that has been condemned by press freedom and human rights organizations.  In recent months, the Kremlin has labeled several other outlets and their journalists “foreign agents,” including Meduza, one of the largest independent news sites, TV Rain, a long-running web channel where Badanin was the editor before his 2018 fellowship, and iStories, an investigative site launched by 2019 JSK Fellow Roman Anin.