Two Russian police generals have been fired due to fallout from the arrest of Ivan Golunov, an investigative reporter whose exposure of corruption put a huge target on his back. He was released and the charges were dropped after days of protest in Moscow and attention of the world media.
On June 6, Ivan Golunov was stopped, handcuffed, and put into a police car in the streets of Moscow. The police proceeded to strip search him and allegedly discovered mephedrone in his bag and in an apartment he rents. Golunuv was immediately being charged with conspiracy to traffic the drug, a crime that would have fetched him 20 years in prison.
As an investigative journalist, Golunov constantly probed where others barely saw any need to, such as contracts for city and park developments, micro-credit schemes and social issues involving hospitals, schools, and other institutions. In fact, subjects considered bigger such as national security was not his forte. He reported his findings on corruption for the independent media outlet, Meduza.
After his arrest, his whereabouts remained unclear and all efforts by his lawyer to locate him proved abortive. Ivan Golunov was held by the police for 14 hours without sleep or food. He was also not allowed to contact a lawyer or family. Golunov was also allegedly beaten. A doctor who inspected Ivan Golunov said he may have suffered from broken ribs, and a haematoma.
On June 7, people throughout the nation started gathering around local police headquarters to protest. In Moscow, a street protest lead to many people being detained, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The following day, people began gathering at the district courthouse where Golunov was expected to be for his trail.
Russia takes a hardline stance on media and public opinion, so it was taken as a major triumph when, following the outcry at Golunov’s arrest, authorities caved in and declared there was no evidence to suggest he committed the crime. It looked indeed like light at the end of the tunnel for activists, journalists and citizens who can’t wait to see the end of repression in Russia from unfair government policies, shady politicians and criminal organizations.
The protests, which have been unlawful in Russian, have driven home the point that injustice would no longer be tolerated. Furthermore, protesters definitely took out actions to stand against corrupt practices, and it was even more felt amongst Golunov’s colleagues in the press who are still writing about him and the way forward for Russia. Not to mention the fact that his media outlet, Meduza, is now a household name.
Golunov may find it difficult to go back to his daily routine and methods of investigation, but his actions and the repercussions that followed have no doubt galvanized the population to demand justice and greater press freedom.
Image: Evgeny Feldman/ Meduza