РThe Rosbalt editors office handed over to the HRC a copy of the search warrant, which was held at the agency on April 18 - it was signed by P.P. Milovanov. According to this document, the search was carried out on the fact of dissemination in the media of information defaming businessman Alisher Usmanov, but due to a publication by journalist Alexander Shvarev not in Rosbalt, but somewhere on the Internet, “including on the website rucriminal .info "(now it is completely blocked).
Rosbalt insists that it did not publish its own materials, which would mention Usmanov’s name, but the agency cannot vouch for journalist Shvarev - he has the right to work for other media, including under a pseudonym, and in his dossier and drafts could be any information.
Rosbalt’s editors paid attention to the demonstrativeness of the search (although there would be enough seizures) on the same day, and it all looks mysterious, but it is important for us to answer two questions:
What exactly could Colonel Milovanov's subordinates look for in the computer and in Shvarev’s desk, as well as the agency’s chief editor Nikolai Ulyanov?
For what purpose?
In accordance with Art. 41 of the Law on Mass Media, “the editors are obliged to keep the source of information secret and do not have the right to name the person who provided information on the condition of non-disclosure of his name, unless the corresponding request came from the court in connection with the case in its proceedings”; the same rule of art. 49 of the Law on Mass Media also establishes for a journalist. But even in court, they may refuse to name the source of information - in this case, the journalist and the editors will have to confirm its authenticity with other evidence.
The plot of the libel case in the search warrant has not been disclosed in detail, but it is connected with Usmanov and the “Shakro Young case” (as Rosbalt says, this name was used by investigators to search computers). We do not know the essence of the story and will not go into it, but it is clear that it causes someone a certain concern. Not only the information that Colonel Milovanov’s subordinates were looking for in one form or another, but also its sources and methods of production could be interesting.
In November 2018, Usmanov appealed to the Basmanny Court with a claim for the protection of honor and dignity to a certain A.M. Volkov and with the requirement to Roskomnazor to block information on the rucriminal.info site. According to GAS “Justice”, this case Usmanov won, the decision was not appealed by anyone, but his text is not in the card file. However, in court for the protection of honor and dignity, even if the real author of the note came there, he could not even name the source of his information - even at the cost of losing the case.
Therefore, apparently, it was decided to use the criminal law mechanisms. The case under Part 2 of Art. 128 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (about defamation in the media) could theoretically be initiated without the victim’s statement, but this possibility is unlikely. In this case, the operation at Rosbalt and at Shvarev’s home was most likely aimed at seizing from the journalist the evidence that he may have or possessed, if he had not guessed beforehand that he could hide the dangerous file away. After all, they were not looking for drugs? (And they would have found it.)
Summarizing: the special operation was aimed not so much at the thrill of journalists (although such an effect was achieved along the way), as bypassing the guarantees provided to them under the Law on Mass Media. And this fits entirely with existing trends: both attacks on freedom of speech, and civil disputes through the Criminal Code.
The HRC Standing Committee on Freedom of Information and the Rights of Journalists also publishes a statement expressing concern about the search at Rosbalt.