Speaker and media secure release of Russian journalist
The arrest of Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov (pictured) last week, on what appeared to be a fabricated drugs charge, has sparked an unusual show of media solidarity. He was finally released yesterday (Tuesday).
And the Speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, yesterday raised concerns about the case against the prominent journalist.
Golunov was charged with drug trafficking after police said 3.5 grams of the recreational drug methedrine was found in his rucksack, and 5.37 grams of cocaine at his home. The 36-year-old reporter for the independent website Meduza said the drugs were planted and he was being targeted for his work.
The circumstances of the journalist’s arrest have alarmed the media community.
Russian reporters have staged solo protests, lining up to hold placards outside the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A lone protester does not require a permit as both the independent and pro-Kremlin media rallied to Golunov’s cause.
More than 20,000 people have pledged online that they will protest today (Wednesday), a public holiday, to demand Golunov’s release.
The reporter was beaten and denied access to a lawyer for more than 12 hours, according to his defence team.
The arrest caused outrage and hundreds of people have picketed Moscow’s police headquarters.
On Monday, three leading Russian business papers published front pages with the headline: “We are Ivan Golunov.”
The three privately owned papers come under frequent pressure to soften their coverage and make compromises with the authorities.
Golunov said he was probably being framed in revenge for his stories on funeral industry corruption.
He is also associated with investigations into corruption at Moscow City Hall and murky food markets.
His lawyer, Pavel Chikov, published a police report which said no traces of drugs were found on the journalist’s palms or under his fingernails.
The police have admitted that eight out of nine photographs published of packets of narcotics – in what appeared to be a drugs lab allegedly at Golunov’s apartment – were taken elsewhere.
He was transferred to house arrest this week following the public outpouring of support, including high-profile staff at the state-owned media.
Speaker Matviyenko, who is Russia’s third most senior political figure after the president and prime minister, voiced concerns about the arrest, calling it a “really bad story”.
Matviyenko said the prosecutor general had promised to take personal control of the case.
Ivan Golunov. Media freedom in Russia is limited. Picture credit: YouTube