The Russian state tried to intimidate its media with the shocking treatment of a star journalist, but they just showed they're not listening

  • Russian police arrested and detained Ivan Gulonov, a prominent investigative journalist, in an apparent threat to the country’s independent media outlets.
  • Golunov has been accused of drug dealing, which carries a sentence of ten to twenty years in prison.
  • He denies the charges, and his lawyer says police planted evidence to frame him.
  • On Monday, three prominent independent news outlets published identical front-page headlines in solidarity with Golunov.
  • It is a rare show of coordination given the divided Russian media landscape.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Russian government sent an obvious message to its independent media by detaining a star investigative journalist.

Ivan Golunov, 36, was arrested in Moscow last Thursday and detained for two days. When next seen in public he had obvious bruises, cuts, and other signs of having been attacked.

Golunov was accused of drug dealing, charges he says are fabricated.

Whatever this was supposed to tell other journalists in Golunov’s position, they have just sent an even clearer memo back: We’re not listening.

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Golunov, who works for the independent news site Meduza, is known for his reports exposing corruption within Moscow’s political and business elite, Business Insider’s Ellen Cranley reported.

Meduza said that it believes Golunov is innocent, and said that he had been receiving threats in recent months over a story he was working on.

“All of us at Meduza are 100 per cent certain that the persecution of Ivan Golunov is related to his journalistic work,” the news site said on Sunday, adding that it plans to recruit journalists from other Russian outlets to complete and publish Golunov’s ongoing investigation.

Before appearing in court on Saturday, Golunov was taken to hospital, with the independent Interfax news agency reporting that the reporter had chest abrasions, bruised ribs, and suspected head injuries – suggesting that he might have been attacked in prison.

On Monday, three of Russia’s largest independent newspapers published identical front-page headlines in solidarity with Golunov. It is a rare show of coordination in Russia’s politically diverse media landscape.

In a joint statement under the headline “I am/We are Ivan Golunov,” Vedomosti, Komersant, and RBK questioned the evidence against Golunov and demanded transparency and a review of police behaviour toward him.

“We expect law enforcement agencies to scrupulously observe the law, and demand maximum openness when it comes to the investigation,” the newspapers said, according to Reuters. “We demand the law be respected by everyone and for everyone.”

Even the privately-owned, pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper said the investigation into Golunov needed “irrefutable evidence,” or else it harms “the reputation of the law enforcement, the country, and all of us,” BBC Monitoring reported.

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Golunov’s lawyer previously told Reuters that police planted drugs on his client to frame him.

Police initially released photos of drugs and scales in what they said was Golunov’s home, but later retracted them saying the photos had been taken in another flat, The Associated Press reported.

Supporters described Golunov’s transfer from prison to house arrest as a small victory, suggesting that the government had grown nervous after the furious reaction to the arrest.

State TV on Sunday aired a program in which police officers defended their evidence against Golunov, Reuters said.

BBC Monitoring said that the numerous Kremlin-controlled channels have not otherwise covered the case.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on Golunov.

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