Russian Journalist’s Arrest Linked to His Corruption Investigations

11 June, 2019

Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was arrested by police on Thursday, June 6 in the center of Moscow on charges of attempted sale and storage of drugs on a large scale. Golunov himself is opposed to the charges, stating that the drugs have been specially planted. The journalist considers the case fabricated and connects it with his professional work as an investigator of corruption cases.

Golunov’s arrest provoked large-scale protest actions, rare in solidarity, among Russian journalists, media publishing houses, artists, musicians and public figures. Due to public pressure, the court chose Golunov a temporary measure of restraint in the form of a two-month house arrest instead of detention in the SIZO.

Who is Golunov and why is he important?

36-year-old Ivan Golunov is a correspondent for the investigative department of the opposition online news website «Meduza». Golunov has a long list of corruption investigations, often with high-ranking officials and businessmen from Moscow. For example, the vice-mayor of Moscow, Pyotr Biryukov, was one of the subjects of his investigations. The journalist also wrote about the market of funeral services and landfills in Moscow. The editorial board of Meduza reported that Golunov was currently working on an investigation into abuses in the ritual services market of Moscow.

Among the investigations of Golunov, there are publications such as:

A complete list of Ivan Golunov’s publications can be found here in Russian language.

Arrest of the journalist

Ivan Golunov was arrested on Tsvetnoy Boulevard in Moscow on the afternoon of June 6. The police stated that he had drugs with him (methylephedron weighing about 4 g), and more than 5 grams of cocaine was also found in the journalist’s apartment later during the search. The police have published photos of the found drugs from the Golunov’s apartment. Relatives of the journalist state that the photographs from his house were taken elsewhere and that Golunov’s handwriting does not coincide with the handwriting on these photographs. The police called the published photos as a mistake and began an internal investigation.

The drug test showed a negative result. At the control swabs from the palms and nails, experts from the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not find any narcotic or psychotropic substances.

In the police department, Golunov felt sick. An ambulance doctor diagnosed him with a suspected rib fracture, a concussion, and a hematoma on his head. After being examined at the hospital, the journalist was taken to court.

On the afternoon of June 8, Golunov was charged with illegal production, sale or transfer of narcotic drugs on a large scale. In the evening of the same day, the Nikulinsky court decided on the house arrest of Golunov for two months. The investigation and the prosecutor's office demanded to send the journalist to the SIZO.

Public response

Golunov’s arrest provoked a large-scale protest action, rare in solidarity, among Russian journalists, media publishing houses, artists, musicians and public figures. With the unanimous support of the journalist, well-known journalists of state and independent media, who in everyday life are on opposite sides of information barricades, spoke out.

On Monday, June 10, for the first time in history, the Russian newspapers Vedomosti, Kommersant and RBK came out with the same front page “I / We are Ivan Golunov. In their statement, the editors of all three newspapers demanded to check the actions of the police and provide the results of the check for the media.

Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, said that "the first thing that naturally comes to mind is the suspicion that he is being persecuted for his journalistic activities".

Russian musician Yuri Shevchuk, Boris Grebenshchikov, Andrei Makarevich, the rapper Noize MC and Oxxxymiron, actress Chulpan Khamatova, actor Konstantin Habensky, TV presenter Tina Kandelaki, chief editor of RT Margarita Simonyan, journalist Ksenia Sobchak, a blogger Yuri Dud, opposition politician Alexei Navalny, sports commentator Viktor Utkin, editor of Ekho Moskvy Alexey Venediktov and many other famous personalities have supported Golunov and condemned his detention.

The “Amnesty International” said in a statement that the circumstances of the detention "look like a way of putting pressure on independent media in Russia." The International Committee to Protect Journalists, based in the United States, called on the Russian authorities to “immediately drop all charges” against Golunov, release him and investigate the possible beating of a journalist in the police.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Twitter expressed concern over the detention of Golunov.

What's next?

On June 12, a march for the freedom of Ivan Golunov will take place in Moscow. The action participants will carry in their hands a newspaper with articles of a journalist. The organizers do not intend to coordinate the march with the authorities of the capital.

The marchers plan to complete the action at the building of the Moscow police, where from 7 June pickets in support of Golunov are being held.

Ivan Golunov will remain under house arrest for the next two months.

Ermek Baisalov