Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Russian authorities ‘carefully monitors’ case of held journo

Russian authorities ‘carefully monitors’ case of held journo

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, charged with attempted drug-dealing, sits inside a defendants’ cell during a hearing at a court in Moscow on Saturday. Vasily MAXIMOV/AFP

Russian authorities ‘carefully monitors’ case of held journo

The Kremlin said on Monday it was carefully monitoring the case of arrested reporter Ivan Golunov and admitted it threw up a “great number of questions”.

“We are carefully monitoring how this case is developing,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “This concrete case has triggered a great number of questions.”

Earlier on the same day, the authorities faced an unprecedented pushback against the arrest of the investigative reporter on drugs charges, with both liberal and pro-Kremlin figures calling for his release.

Three top Russian dailies published the same front page in an unprecedented act of solidarity and defiance over Golunov’s detention, who says he is being punished for his reporting.

“I am/we are Ivan Golunov,” Kommersant, Vedomosti and RBK newspapers declared in giant letters on their front pages.

Golunov, a 36-year-old investigative reporter with Meduza, an independent Russian-language media outlet, was detained last week over allegations that he manufactured and dealt drugs.

He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. His defence says the drugs had been planted on him.

International concern

Gulonov’s arrest sparked outrage among journalists and supporters and triggered statements of concern from the EU, the US, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, among others.

Golunov was released from pre-trial jail at the weekend and placed under house arrest after hundreds of supporters gathered outside a Moscow court.

In identical statements published on their front pages, the three newspapers said Golunov’s prosecution was an act of intimidation against Russian society and demanded an investigation into the policemen who had detained him.

They said they welcomed the more lenient pre-trial conditions but that they did not consider the evidence presented by investigators to be convincing.

“We do not rule out that Golunov’s detention and subsequent arrest are linked to his professional activities,” they said.

Many newspaper kiosks in Moscow had run out of Monday’s edition of the papers by early afternoon.

All three are privately owned but increasingly have to toe the government line.

During his two decades in power, President Vladimir Putin has silenced most of his critics and muzzled the media.

The few opposition and independent media that still operate in Russia are under huge pressure, Kremlin critics say.

Since Friday, Russians have held one-person pickets in front of Moscow’s police headquarters – the only form of protest that does not require prior approval from authorities.

Supporters plan to stage a march in support of Golunov on Wednesday.

The Meduza website is based in EU member state Latvia to circumvent censorship from Moscow, but some of its journalists live in Russia.

‘War against us’

Many prominent figures spoke out in support of Golunov, with rock stars and popular rappers joining forces with rights activists and authors.

“Police and security services have declared war against us,” opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta said on its front page. “Well, we’ll respond.”

In an unprecedented move, even some of the staunchly pro-Kremlin television journalists also expressed support for the liberal journalist.

“This is a test for us all,” NTV channel host Irada Zeinalova said on television, urging punishment of the police if they failed to come up with firm evidence of the reporter’s guilt.

Yevgeny Bryun, a narcologist with the Russian health ministry, said there were no traces of drugs in his urine.

Golunov has been charged with attempted dealing of a “large amount” of mephedrone and cocaine.

His lawyer pointed to egregious violations in his case.

Police released pictures of a drug laboratory that Golunov allegedly ran but later admitted that only one of the photos was taken in the journalist’s apartment.

Golunov said he has received threats and believes he is being punished for his investigation of the country’s shady funeral industry.

News of Golunov’s detention overshadowed Russia’s top economic forum in Saint Petersburg on Friday which was attended by Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Bell, a respected online media outlet, said the Kremlin has found itself in a difficult situation and would be forced to take sides.

“If in this situation the state . . . does not restore justice the governability of the country as a whole would be put into doubt.”


  • ‘Life goes on’ if Cambodia loses Everything But Arms

    Cambodia's business sector is exploring ways to mitigate any fallout from a possible loss of access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement as talks continue before the 28-member bloc makes a final decision. The EU monitoring process is set to conclude in

  • Nesat beach: A magnet drawing tourists to the Kingdom’s coastline

    A white sandy beach lined by countless coconut trees awaits travellers off Cambodia’s southwest coast in Koh Kong province’s Srae Ambel district, about 170km from Phnom Penh. Over the past few years Nesat beach – a name inspired by a nearby fishing village – has

  • PM: Workers must train for Industry 4.0

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged the Kingdom’s workforce to seek more technical training and strengthen their skills if they are to avoid job losses resulting from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Hun Sen said the fourth industrial revolution is like a double-edged sword that

  • Huawei applies for OS trademark in Cambodia

    China's Huawei Technologies Co has applied to trademark the “Hongmeng” operating system (OS) in a number of countries including Cambodia in a bid to launch its homegrown operating system as a replacement for the Android OS, Reuters has reported. Huawei has applied to trademark the “