Russia: Investigative journalist Ivan Golunov detained and allegedly beaten in custody

ARTICLE 19 is seriously concerned by the detention and alleged severe beating of the investigative journalist, Ivan Golunov, by police in custody in Moscow. On 6 June, Golunov, a journalist with the online news website, Meduza, was detained on suspicion of “illegal production or sale of drugs”, after the police searched him and allegedly found drugs in his bag and apartment. The journalist denies all the accusations.

Golunov is well known for investigating political corruption and criminality in the city of Moscow. Meduza had recently received threats in relation to a story he was pursuing.

According to a Meduza statement, following his arrest, officers punched and slapped Golunov in the head and chest, pushed him to the ground, and dragged him across the floor. Golunov was later taken to a Moscow hospital. A doctor who inspected Golunov said he may have suffered broken ribs, concussion and a haematoma.

For the first 14 hours of his detention, Golunov was not allowed to contact a lawyer or his family, according to the Meduza statement and media reports. According to his lawyer, Dmitri Dzhulai, police also demanded Golunov sign a confession. Golunov is also reported to have requested that swabs be taken of his hands and fingernails to prove that he had not been in contact with the drugs, but police refused to do so. Police also refused to forensically examine the journalist’s backpack.

If convicted, Golunov could face a sentence of up to 20 years. He was deprived his right to call his lawyer or colleagues for more than 12 hours after his arrest. He was also physically assaulted by police during the interrogation, after which the police refused to call medics to address the injuries that he had sustained.

On 7 June 2019, journalists picketed Moscow City’s Police Headquarters in protest at Galunov’s detention. Police subsequently began detaining the picketing journalists, twelve of whom were briefly detained before being released.

Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, said, “The arrest of Ivan Golunov, one of Russia’s most important investigative journalists, is blatantly a reprisal for his public-interest journalism which has covered highly sensitive corruption. We are closely monitoring the authorities’ treatment of Golunov in detention. We call on the authorities to immediately release him, drop these bogus charges and investigate allegations that he was beaten in police custody.”