Golunov was released and charges against him were dropped on Tuesday, in a rare backdown by Russian authorities in the face of a public outcry. The reporter for independent media outlet Meduza had been arrested five days prior on what are widely believed to be fabricated drug charges. Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said the case was being dropped due to a “lack of evidence” to support the charges.
“I’m heartened to hear of the release of Ivan Golunov and by the display of solidarity from Russian journalists and civil society. Golunov's charges bore all the hallmarks of a state attempt to muzzle a journalist. Russian authorities were wise to answer to the pressure and secure his swift release,” said Leon Willems, Free Press Unlimited’s Director of Policy and Programmes.
He continued: “It is essential that Russian authorities thoroughly investigate allegations that Golunov was mistreated during his arrest and that those responsible are held to account. As long as crimes against journalists go unpunished, they will continue to be attacked by those who want to silence them.”
'Beaten in custody'
A day after his arrest, Golunov’s lawyer, Dmitri Dzhulai said the reporter had been severely beaten in custody and had sustained injuries. The journalist was also denied access to a lawyer for more than 12 hours after his arrest.
Kolokoltsev said the officers who had arrested Golunov have been suspended pending an investigation.
Golunov’s case sparked a massive outpouring of solidarity from within and outside of Russia. On Monday, three respected Russian newspapers (Kommersant, RBD and Vedomosti) published identical front pages saying “I/We Are Ivan Golunov”. International media and rights organisations also expressed outrage at the reporter’s arrest.
Six journalists still detained
Immediately after his release, Golunov pledged to continue his work. “I will be doing investigations because I have to justify the trust of those who supported me,” he told a crowd of supporters.
Russia is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). On Wednesday the rights group pointed out that six other journalists remain detained in Russia.
Photo courtesy of Meduza