Ivan Golunov – a Russian journalist who was on his way to meet a source for his story last Thursday – was detained by Russian authorities in central Moscow. Reuters quoted his employer, a Latvia-based news portal named Meduza, as saying that officials found illicit drugs in his rucksack. Golunov, however, has asserted that the bag did not belong to him.
Golunov is known for practising investigative journalism and has done stories on alleged corruption in Russian capital’s civic administration.
Dmitry Djulai, Golunov’s lawyer, informed Reuters that he believed police authorities had planted the drugs on his client to frame him, and that Golunov had been manhandled, and added that ‘police had refused to take swabs from his hands or the rucksack or to even take fingernail samples to see if he had been in contact with drugs’.
Associated Press reported that Russia’s three major newspapers Monday put out news articles on their front pages to support Golunov. Kommersant, Vedomosti and RBK, among the most respected daily newspapers in Russia, published a joint editorial under the headline “I am/We are Ivan Golunov,” calling for a transparent probe into the case of the investigative journalist’s detention.
The circumstances of the journalist’s arrest have sent ripples of shock across the Russian media community. In an attempt to portray Golunov as a professional drug dealer, police on Friday released several photos, reportedly from Golunov’s home, of what seems to be a drug laboratory before they retracted the statement, adding that the pictures were taken elsewhere.
Golunov’s claim to fame has been his investigative stories into corruption in the Moscow City Hall, the crime-ridden funeral industry and the questionable food markets. Associated Press quoted Golunov as informing the court that he has previously received threats in the aftermath of his reports on Moscow’s shady funeral business. Meduza’s director general Galina Timchenko stated that Golunov told her in March about the threats after his piece was published.