The office of a Russian magazine for students was raided and several of its editors were temporarily detained by authorities on Wednesday morning, after the publication expressed its support for jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, according to DOXA magazine.
The homes of four editors and some of their family members were searched, DOXA said in an official statement published on their website.
According to DOXA, phones and laptops were seized during the searches and journalists Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin and Natalia Tyshkevich were taken by the Russian Investigative Committee for questioning. All four journalists have now been charged for inciting minors to protest, said DOXA, which also rejected the allegation.
“There were no calls to illegal actions in our video – we said that young people should not be afraid to express their opinions,” DOXA’s statement read. Agora, the legal organization representing the four journalists, referred CNN to DOXA’s statement.
The Investigative Committee did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The four will be under strict pre-trial communications restrictions until June 14, according to a statement by Moscow’s Basmanny court. According to DOXA, the restrictions include a prohibition on leaving their homes between midnight and 11:59 p.m, using the internet, and communicating with anyone other than with their lawyers and close relatives.
DOXA magazine started as a small online publication run mostly by students at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. It has since grown and become independent.
The magazine said raids were in connection to a video taken earlier this year in which the magazine’s editors explained to students that it was illegal for them to be expelled from university for participating in protest actions in support of Alexey Navalny.
The video was removed from the DOXA YouTube channel following a request from Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor in late January, just a a few days after it was originally posted. The watchdog argued the video encouraged participation in unauthorized protests – a claim that DOXA disputes.
“The pressure that the journalistic community has faced lately is unprecedented, but we will not stop our activities. We will continue to highlight what is important to young people and continue to advocate for their rights,” DOXA said in the statement.
A ‘new low’ for press freedom
Amnesty International has called the raids “a new low” for press freedom in Russia.
Russian authorities have cracked down on protesters showing support for Navalny, and hundreds of people were detained during protests in recent months.
Russia has also vowed to act against social media platforms that do not take down posts which the Kremlin deemed as illegal or as inciting people to take party in “unauthorized protests.”
Last Friday, independent Russian investigative media outlet IStories said that the Russian intelligence agency FSB raided its offices, as well as the home of investigative journalist Roman Anin, IStories’ editor-in-chief.
Anin’s lawyer Anna Stavitsakaya said the raids, a brief detention and interrogation of Anin were carried out in relation to a story by Anin published in 2016. Anin is known for exposing corruption in Russia.
The European Union expressed its concern about the Anin incident in a statement published Sunday. “We call on the Russian authorities to uphold its international and domestic obligations. Freedom of the media should be respected. The EU will continue to follow the issue closely,” the statement said.