The journalists reporting about the activities of Russian mercenaries in Africa and the Middle East were the target of intimidation and harassment campaigns, Roman Badanin, the head of the Proekt portal, told Reuters.
Proekt, a Moscow-based independent portal focusing on investigative journalism, began publishing a series of articles about the so-called Wagner group, a private military company, in March. Then, the website posted an article about the extraction of magnesium ore in Madagascar by a company linked to Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who is commonly known as Putin’s Chef. According to Proekt, the geologists were protected by the Wagner group, and Russian spin doctors were working in the country before the elections.
The editor-in-chief said that at the same time Proekt journalists started to be threatened with revenge for their activities. Unidentified people made attempts to hack their accounts on Facebook, Telegram and Gmail. One of the female journalists was followed by an unknown man who was filming her.
“All this is nothing but trying to intimidate us, deflect from our journalistic work, show that they are keeping a close eye on us,” said Badanin. The team has no idea who is behind it.
The intimidation campaign stepped up last month, when the Proekt was investigating into Wagner’s alleged actions in Libya. In late September, Western media, including Bloomberg, reported that about 100 mercenaries from the Wagner group had arrived in Libya.
The situation was not reported to the police; Projekt opted for making it public.
Russia is regularly criticized by media freedom watchdogs. According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), 28 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000.