Three major Russian newspapers used their front pages Monday in a rare showing of solidarity to lambast the arrest of a journalist known for his corruption investigations and demanded press freedom.
Ivan Golunov, 36, a reporter for the Latvia-based independent news website Meduza, was detained Thursday for alleged drug offenses, according to Moscow police. A Moscow court placed Golunov under house arrest for two months Saturday after he was charged with drug possession and intent to deal, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Kommersant, RBK and Vedomosti, all of which are independent news outlets in Russia, published an editorial on Monday titled “I Am/We Are Ivan Golunov,” which raised “great doubts” that the arrest of the journalist was legitimately related to drug charges, according to The Huffington Post. The piece speculates that Golunov's arrest was part of the Kremlin's effort to silence his reporting. The Russian government controls most media in the country.
The police “do not exclude that the detention and subsequent arrest of Golunov is related to his professional activities,” the editorial states. According to one of Golunov’s lawyers, Dmitry Dzhulai, the journalist suffered “a concussion, two broken ribs, and multiple bruises and hematomas on the back of the head” after police tried to drag him out of a room after he demanded to talk to a lawyer.
Meduza editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov released a statement on Sunday that alleged that Golunov was arrested as a form of retaliation over a long-term investigative report he was working on. Kolpakov said that Golunov had been receiving threats from the subject of his piece for more than a year and that he handed in his report to his editor hours before the arrest. The publication said its too early to confirm what exactly the report was about.
The Kremlin admitted on Monday that police may have made errors related to Golunov's arrest. “Mistakes can never be ruled out,” Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said, according to The Guardian. “The important thing is to recognise mistakes so that they aren’t repeated. Some issues need clarification.”
Russia Behind Bars, a human-rights organization, documents instances of drugs being planted on people being held in custody. The organization, which was founded by a former journalist, claims that in most cases officers place the drugs on suspects because they're pressured to make drug-related arrests. In several cases, however, police frame others because government officials want the person silenced in jail, the New Yorker reported.