Russian journalist investigating corruption gets detained on drug charges

The detention of a prominent Russian journalist known for investigating corruption has rattled the media community in the country and highlights the pressure faced by news outlets fighting to preserve their independence.

Ivan Golunov, 36, a reporter for the Latvia-based independent news website Meduza was detained Thursday for alleged drug offenses, according to information published by the Moscow police. On Saturday, a Moscow court placed Mr. Golunov under house arrest for two months after he was charged with drug possession and intent to deal.

Ivan Golunov, a journalist who worked for the independent website Meduza, reacts in a cage in a court room in Moscow, Russia,

Ivan Golunov, a journalist who worked for the independent website Meduza, reacts in a cage in a court room in Moscow, Russia, (AP)

The court rejected a request from investigators to keep Mr. Golunov in custody. Earlier Saturday, he was given a medical examination amid reports he was injured while being detained.

“All of us at Meduza are 100% certain that the persecution of Ivan Golunov is related to his journalistic work,” Meduza’s editor in chief Ivan Kolpakov said.

Threats and harassment against reporters are common in Russia. In 2016, Chechen journalist Zhalaudi Geriyev was sentenced to three years in jail on a drug charge; similar charges were brought against journalist, Nikolai Yarst, in Sochi, shortly before the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Mr. Golunov’s detention comes as Russian authorities to tighten control over online activities by adopting legislation that would more effectively filter information coming into the country—a move that has triggered concern over infringement privacy. Last month, authorities ordered dating app Tinder to share user data and messages with government and intelligence agencies.

Russia is ranked 149 out of 180 countries, behind Venezuela and Honduras, according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media advocacy group. Norway ranks as the country with the highest press freedoms, the media watchdog reports.

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