What if one day you publish an article on the Global Observer, and the next morning a special forces unit tears down your front door, brutally searches the rooms, and confiscates most of your belongings for “investigating purposes”? Unfortunately, team members of DOXA, an HSE student-run magazine, no longer need to imagine what it might feel like. On the morning of April 14, the police raided their houses and the DOXA office, arrested four editors and journalists, and brought them to a court trial on the very same day. After a brief review, they were ordered to remain under house arrest from 00:00 to 23:59 every day and prohibited to use the Internet until June 14, when the court hearing will determine whether they will face up to 3 years in jail. Now, Armen Aramyan, Alla Gutnikova, Vladimir Metelkin, and Natalia Tyshkevich cannot continue with their journalistic work or keep in touch with most of their friends and relatives for two months.
DOXA was created as a media outlet of the Higher School of Economics community, but until recently it was a rather unremarkable on-and-off project. Over the past few years, DOXA has become more politicized and issued numerous scandalous articles on sexual harassment by faculty members, corruption, unjust treatment of students, and criticized growing academic censorship and authoritarian political trends. Remarkably, DOXA campaigned for freeing Egor Zhukov, who was accused of radical propaganda for his anti-Putin videos and later released on probation in 2019, and whom the HSE publicly condemned and expelled from a Master’s program. These reports were concerning for the university head staff, and DOXA’s piece on denouncing a corrupt Moscow city hall candidate became the last straw, which led to the outlet losing its status as a student organization in December of 2019 for “smearing the university reputation”.
Over the past year, DOXA has become an independent entity, successfully managing to attract donations and gain further popularity and public support. Without pressure from the university management, the outlet could also discuss more controversial topics and engage in government criticism. During the all-Russia mass protests following Alexei Navalny’s unlawful detention in January of this year, DOXA played an important role in reporting police brutality instances, spreading information regarding the organization of mass events, and collected donations to help those who were arrested or/and injured during protests. Soon after, DOXA was included in an extensive government-led lawsuit on Navalny’s team and other pro-Navalny NGOs for “inciting minors to participate in illegal activities”. The court ordered DOXA to take down their video which addressed students, telling them to stay vocal and not be afraid of joining the protest movement, which the magazine took down following the release of the case materials.
Three months later, the DOXA team has to deal with police raids, house detention, and the four now face up to 3 years in jail for publishing a video they had already deleted. Clearly, this case is a way for authorities to scare the Russian youth away from raising their voice against injustice. As seen from DOXA’s story, just not so long ago, imposing censorship and penalties was the duty of universities (and DOXA is not the only example of such), but mild days are gone, and it is now the executive organs’ job to incite fear and suppress any sprouting oppositionist activities.
“In Arrest Of Student Journalists, Signs Of The Struggle For Russia’S Youth”. 2021. Voice Of America. https://www.voanews.com/europe/arrest-student-journalists-signs-struggle-russias-youth.
“Russian Activist Blogger Gets Suspended Sentence After Anti-Putin Videos”. 2021. Radiofreeeurope/Radioliberty. https://www.rferl.org/a/russian-activist-blogger-gets-suspended-sentence-after-anti-putin-videos/30311579.html.
“Russian Student Journalists Face Jail Over Navalny Protest Video – The Moscow Times”. 2021. The Moscow Times. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/04/14/russian-student-journalists-face-jail-over-navalny-protest-video-a73585.
“Представьте: К Вам Ворвались С Обыском. А Вашего Ребенка Внезапно Обвинили В «Вовлечении» Подростков В Протесты“. 2021. Meduza.Io. https://meduza.io/feature/2021/04/16/predstavte-k-vam-domoy-vorvalis-s-obyskom-a-vashego-rebenka-vnezapno-obvinili-v-vovlechenii-podrostkov-v-protesty.
“Manuscripts don’t burn.”
– Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita