The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed horror at the fatal self-immolation of a Russian journalist protesting police pressure and demanded an immediate investigation into the circumstances that led to her death.

Irina Slavina, the founder and editor-in-chief of small local news outlet Koza Press, died from burns she suffered after setting herself on fire in front of the regional headquarters of the Interior Ministry in western city of Nizhny Novgorod at around 3.30pm on October 2.

Before her suicide she had posted on her Facebook page: “I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.”

According to her newspaper, the self-immolation came one day after 12 police and law enforcement officials searched her apartment and confiscated journalistic materials, laptop, and notebooks.

After the raid, Slavina had published Facebook posts and given interviews expressing frustration at the police’s behaviour and the lack of due process and information.

It was the latest in a series of acts of police intimidation and harassment related to her journalistic work and criticism of the government, according to media reports. Other reports suggested pressure and censorship against her had increased in recent years.

The Investigative Committee of Russia announced it had opened a preliminary investigation into the death.

“We are horrified by the tragic death of journalist Irina Slavina in Russia earlier today,” said IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen. “We express our deepest sympathies to her friends and family at this difficult time. Russian authorities must carry out a thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of her death.”

He added: “Critical and independent media in Russia are under immense pressure from police and judicial pressure and face heavy censorship. If it emerges that these factors played a significant role in driving Irina to take her own life, law enforcement authorities in Nizhny Novgorod will have serious questions to answer.”

In 2015, Slavina raised 50 thousand rubles among the local community in Nizhny Novgorod to establish the Koza Press portal. It describes itself as having “no censorship, no orders ‘from above’”.

However, since then the publication has experienced financial issues and last year it was announced that the publication would soon be sold or face closure.

According to media reports, the police search was carried out as part of a wider criminal case against Mikhail Iosilevich, the founder of the Russian Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a satirical religious organization.

Other searches were carried against activists and opposition politicians by security forces  Nizhny Novgorod on the same day, according to local media.