How investigative journalism flourished in hostile Russia
“The public doesn’t care if you bought data or got it from a source,” said Roman Anin, the founder of iStories, a Russian nonprofit survey site employing 15 people. He said he concluded that “since we live in a country where the authorities kill opposition leaders, let’s forget about these rules, because these stories are more important than our ethical rules.
This portal to Vladimir Putin‘s world opened even as some American journalists covering Russian interference in the 2016 election produced overheated essays and viral Twitter feeds. They presented Mr. Putin, in the American imagination, as an all-powerful puppet master and anyone whose name ends with the letter “v” as his agent. But it was real Russians, running their websites on the fringes of the law or from abroad, who opened the windows to Mr. Putin’s real Russia. And what they discovered was incredible personal corruption, obscure figures behind international political interference and murderous but sometimes inept security services.
Here are some examples of these revelations:
Nonprofit investigative media Proekt identified Mr Putin’s ‘secret family’ and discovered that the woman he linked to the president had acquired some $ 100 million in wealth from state-linked sources Russian.
IStories used a mine of hacked emails to document how Mr. Putin’s former son-in-law built a huge fortune through his connections with the state.
Bellingcat, which was founded in London, and Russia-based Insider identified, by name and photograph, the Russian agents who poisoned defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.
The RBC media group has looked at the political machinery behind the troll farm that interferes in the US election.
Meduza exposed the deep corruption in all corners of Moscow city government, right down to the funeral sector.
Mr Navalny’s foundation flew over Mr Putin’s palace, a vast estate on the Black Sea that Mr Navalny called “the world’s biggest bribe” in a scathing video, mocking nearly two hours which he published on his return to Russia last month. The video has been viewed over 100 million times on YouTube.
There is currently a tendency in parts of the American media to reflexively denounce the rise of alternative voices and open platforms on social networks, seeing them only as vectors of disinformation or tools of Donald J. Trump. Russia is a powerful reminder to the other side of this story, the power of these new platforms to challenge one of the world’s most corrupt governments. This is why, for example, Mr. Navalny strongly criticized Twitter’s decision to ban Mr. Trump, call it is an “unacceptable act of censorship”.
The new Russian investigative medium is also resolutely the Internet. And it all started with Mr. Navalny, a lawyer and blogger who created a YouTube investigative style that draws more on the lightweight and even formats of this platform than heavily produced documentaries or magazine surveys. news.
Mr. Navalny does not present himself as a journalist. “We use investigative journalism as a tool to achieve our political goals,” said his assistant, Ms Pevchikh. (A convention they break: getting comments from the target of an investigation.) Indeed, his relationship with freelance journalists can be complicated. Most are careful to maintain their identity as independent actors, not activists. They criticize him, but also send him messages of their stories, hoping he will promote them to his own large audience, and he criticizes them publicly, in turn, for being too gentle with the Kremlin.
New news outlets have also learned from Mr Navalny. Many of them imitated her style on YouTube. And he proved that certain lines could be crossed. In addition, they all undoubtedly benefit from the homogeneity of television networks. Imagine how much YouTube you would watch if the only news channels available were Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN.