Russia media under threat

Whole world descends on Russia with condemnations for trumped up case against investigation journalist

Russia media under threat

Whole world descends on Russia with condemnations for trumped up case against investigation journalist

10 June 2019 Monday 08:02
Russia media under threat


Azaniapost/Agencies
All journalists in Russia are under threat following the arrest of a prominent investigative journalist on trumped up drug charges that have met worldwide condemnation.


Author of a number of hard-hitting reports on alleged corruption by Russian officials and government-linked business people for opposition-friendly news site, Meduza, Ivan Golunov, was arrested on his way to meet an unnamed source and detained by police in central Moscow.


Meduza editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov made the comment on what has been described as a watershed moment for the country’s beleaguered independent media.


Officers initially said they found over 3 grams of mephedrone — a synthetic stimulant popular among clubbers that is also known as “bath salts” — in Golunov’s backpack. Police then searched the journalist’s apartment and said they discovered 5.37 grams of cocaine, as well as a drug-making laboratory.


Golunov denies the accusations and says he was set up by police, who refused to allow him to speak to a lawyer until the day after his arrest.


“This is a threat for all journalists in Russia,” said Kolpakov. “If the police can allow themselves to falsify a case against a well-known journalist in such a crude manner, then what can those journalists who are less well-known expect?”


“We are absolutely certain that the arrest is connected to his work,” Ivan Kolpakov, Meduza’s editor-in-chief, told POLITICO. “He had been receiving threats over material that he has been working on.”


Kolpakov said that Golunov’s most recent investigation concerned highly-placed officials and figures with links to Russia’s powerful state security services. He declined to reveal details of the as-yet-unpublished article, which Golunov filed just hours before his arrest, but said: “It’s likely that the decision was taken by people within the security services.”


Friends and colleagues said the journalist is a clean-living teetotaler and described allegations of involvement with drugs as absurd. “His only drug is curiosity,” wrote a former colleague, on Twitter. “But in Russia that’s against the law.”


Golunov’s lawyer, Dmitry Dzhulai, said his client had told him that police assaulted him twice after his arrest, including when he refused to sign a police report without legal advice. Doctors who visited him in custody said he had suspected broken ribs, a concussion, and severe bruising of the scalp, as well as other injuries.


 However, medics at a Moscow clinic said Golunov did not require hospitalization, a decision that Kolpakov said was likely taken after pressure from investigators. Police deny the allegations of violence.


  “I never thought I’d be present at my own funeral,” a tearful Golunov said when he appeared in court. A judge placed the journalist, who was kept in a metal cage throughout the court hearing, under house arrest for two months. Hundreds of protesters chanting “Freedom!” gathered in support of Golunov outside the courthouse.


Prosecutors had asked the court to keep Golunov in custody, and the judge’s decision to deny that request was unexpected. Kolpakov said he believed the ruling was influenced by the massive show of support for the Meduza reporter.


“This is a threat for all journalists in Russia,” said Kolpakov. “If the police can allow themselves to falsify a case against a well-known journalist in such a crude manner, then what can those journalists who are less well-known expect?”


Russia’s interior ministry, which oversees the work of the police, published photographs purporting to show the drug laboratory in Golunov’s apartment. However, the ministry later removed all but one of the images from its website after admitting that the apartment in question was not Golunov’s.


 Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based media watchdog, recently rated Russia 149th out of 180 countries for media freedom.


Thirty-nine  employees of the three main state media outlets — Rossiya Segodnya, RIA Novosti and Tass —signed an open letter by the Russian Union of Journalists calling for Golunov’s release. Russian musicians and other celebrities also spoke in his defense.
  
MediaZona, another Russian news website that is often critical of the authorities, said the arrest was a blatant attempt to intimidate investigative journalists: “We must defend Ivan for the sake of the future of independent journalism, without which there is also no future for the entire country.”


 There have also been protests in support of Golunov in dozens of other Russian towns and cities, from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg. Protests of varying sizes also took place outside Russian embassies in Berlin, Kiev, London, Riga and Washington.

Updated: 10.06.2019 08:09
Comments
Avatar
Your Name
Post a Comment
Characters Left:
Your comment has been forwarded to the administrator for approval.×
<strong>Warning!</strong> Will constitute a criminal offense, illegal, threatening, offensive, insulting and swearing, derogatory, defamatory, vulgar, pornographic, indecent, personality rights, damaging or similar nature in the nature of all kinds of financial content, legal, criminal and administrative responsibility for the content of the sender member / members are belong.