Team 29: The time has come when you feel you can’t stay silent

7 November 2020

Hi, it’s Dasha Sukhikh, senior lawyer at Team 29

You probably noticed that this newsletter has recently started to include messages not just from Team 29 journalists, but lawyers, too. It’s because the lawyers now feel like they can’t stay silent either.

For a long time now, the internet has been the main way in which people have stayed informed. This is especially true in the age of Coronavirus. But it has become increasingly difficult to search for and obtain important and socially relevant information on the Web. As a team of lawyers, Team 29 tries to uphold the freedom of information, while the Russian government remains firmly on the defensive.

For instance, on 2 November, there was a Court of Appeal hearing in the case on the blocking of the ‘NET2020’ campaign website. It had been used to collect signatures against the amendments to the Constitution, but the Court had blocked access to the site at the request of Roskomnadzor. Team 29 lawyers challenged this decision by the Court, which, in our view, was not lawful. Although the amendments to the Constitution were passed, and dissenting voices will no longer be heard, restoring access to this site is now a matter of principle.

It’s not just the internet that is being restricted; books are also being taken away. In the past week, Team 29 lawyers recalled in two of their videos how in 2017 the book Vostochnye Razmyshleniya [Eastern Reflections] by Polish public figure Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was banned. The reason given was the author’s critical assessment of the actions of the USSR during World War II. In 2020 the Christian pamphlets of the mid-20th Century American evangelist William Branham were declared extremist. They weren’t banned anywhere else in the world, incidentally, and Branham still has many followers to this day.

But then, as the saying goes, constant dripping wears away the stone, and if it constantly hits a wall, that wall will one day surely crack. That’s just what happened in one Team 29 case where our lawyers prevailed. Back in February 2020, St Petersburg City Court granted our claim and ordered the documents centre of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in St Petersburg to provide Ilya Gendelev with archive material relating to a criminal case about his unrehabilitated grandfather. His story is described in detail on the Team 29 website. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it has only recently been possible to gain access to the archive, and the other day, the lawyers were able to take photographs of the archive material. In fact, out of spite, the archive still wouldn’t part with all the documents, but we will deal with that. What matters here is that the family of the person who suffered the repression were able to get their story straight!

Anyway, in the end, we’re optimists here at Team 29. However much we might complain about what’s happening, good things still happen!

For them to happen more often, we encourage you to sign this petition and take part in a flash mob in support of the journalist Ivan Safronov, who is being held on remand. It was his mum’s birthday recently, but the investigator forbade Ivan from congratulating her by phone. Let’s help Ivan Safronov defend his right to contact his loved ones!

Stay tuned!


Translated by Lindsay Munford

Leave a Reply