Russian Newspapers Support Detained Journalist In Rare Joint Call For Press Freedom

In a rare and bold call for press freedom, three prominent Russian newspapers used their front pages to speak up for a detained journalist.

On Monday, Kommersant, RBK and Vedomosti, all of which are respected outlets in Russia, published a joint statement criticizing the arrest of investigative reporter Ivan Golunov, 36, who works for independent news site Meduza.

The editorial, which was titled “I Am/We Are Ivan Golunov,” raised “great doubts” that his arrest for drug dealing was legal, according to a translation by CBS News. Furthermore, it demanded that an investigation of the officers involved be launched and that its findings be given to the media.

Golunov was arrested in Moscow this past Thursday and detained for two days on the drug charges, which he said are bogus. After his release, he reportedly had clear signs of physical abuse, including cuts and bruises. According to Meduza, he was not allowed to sleep or eat for more than 24 hours, and he was not provided with a lawyer or the use of a phone.

A statement published by Meduza from one of Golunov’s lawyers, Dmitry Dzhulai, details the journalist’s injuries, which allegedly include “a concussion, two broken ribs, and multiple bruises and hematomas on the back of the head.”

On Saturday, Golunov was placed on house arrest. The charges against him still stand and could send him back behind bars for up to 20 years, CBS reported.

Dzhulai told Reuters that he thinks the police planted drugs on his client in an effort to frame him.

On Sunday, Meduza editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov released a statement speculating that Golunov may have been targeted because of a long-term investigative report on which he was working. While the details were not revealed, Kolpakov said the subjects of the story had been threatening Golunov for more than a year. Hours before he was arrested, he turned his piece in to his editor.

The Russian newspapers that put out Monday’s editorial also noted that the government may have attempted to silence Golunov, saying they “do not exclude that the detention and subsequent arrest of Golunov is related to his professional activities.” 

Kolpakov vowed that Meduza would recruit colleagues from other news organizations to finish Golunov’s work and publish it internationally across various platforms.

On Monday, the Kremlin admitted that police may have made mistakes in Golunov’s arrest, according to The Guardian.

“Mistakes can never be ruled out,” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The important thing is to recognize mistakes so that they aren’t repeated. Some issues need clarification.”