The Russian state tried to intimidate its media with the shocking treatment of a star journalist, but they just showed they're not listening

ivan golunovIvan Golunov during a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, on June 8, 2019. The writing on the T-shirt reads: &quotEditorial desk demands blood."Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

  • Russian police arrested and detained a prominent investigative journalist in an apparent threat to the country's independent media outlets.
  • Golunov has been accused of drug dealing, which carries a sentence of ten to twenty years in prison.
  • He denies the charges, and his lawyer says police planted evidence to frame him.
  • On Monday, three prominent independent news outlets published identical front-page headlines in solidarity with Golunov.
  • It is a rare show of coordination given the divided Russian media landscape.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Russian government sent an obvious message to its independent media by detaining a star investigative journalist.

Ivan Golunov, 36, was arrested in Moscow last Thursday and detained for two days. When next seen in public he had obvious bruises, cuts, and other signs of having been attacked.

Golunov was accused of drug dealing, charges he says are fabricated.

Whatever this was supposed to tell other journalists in Golunov's position, they've just sent an even clearer memo back: We're not listening.

Read more: A Russian journalist who targets corruption was charged with drug dealing, but his lawyer is accusing police of planting the evidence

ivan golunovRussian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov inside a defendants' cage as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, on June 8, 2019. The writing on the T-shirt reads &quotEditorial desk demands blood."Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

Golunov, who works for the independent news site Meduza, is known for his reports exposing corruption within Moscow's political and business elite, Business Insider's Ellen Cranley reported.

Meduza said that it believes Golunov is innocent, and said that he had been receiving threats in recent months over a story he was working on.

"We have grounds to believe that Golunov is being persecuted because of his journalistic activity," Meduza said in its Saturday statement, cited by Reuters.

Before appearing in court on Saturday, Golunov was taken to hospital, with the independent Interfax news agency reporting that the reporter had chest abrasions, bruised ribs, and suspected head injuries - suggesting that he might have been attacked in prison.

ivan golunov russia front pagesThe front pages of Russia's leading newspapers (from left to right) RBK, Kommersant and Vedomosti all published the same front page in support of Ivan Golunov on June 10, 2019. The headline reads &quotI am/We are Ivan Golunov."Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

On Monday, three of Russia's largest independent newspapers published identical front-page headlines in solidarity with Golunov. It is a rare show of coordination in Russia's politically diverse media landscape.

In a joint statement under the headline "I am/We are Ivan Golunov," Vedomosti, Komersant, and RBK questioned the evidence against Golunov and demanded transparency and a review of police behavior toward him.

"We expect law enforcement agencies to scrupulously observe the law, and demand maximum openness when it comes to the investigation," the newspapers said, according to Reuters. "We demand the law be respected by everyone and for everyone."

Even the privately-owned, pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper said the investigation into Golunov needed "irrefutable evidence," or else it harms "the reputation of the law enforcement, the country, and all of us," BBC Monitoring reported.

Read more: Tinder is complying with a Russian government order to cooperate with its spy agencies - but insists it has not handed over any user data

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)Associated Press

Golunov's lawyer previously told Reuters that police planted drugs on his client to frame him.

Police initially released photos of drugs and scales in what they said was Golunov's home, but later retracted them saying the photos had been taken in another flat, The Associated Press reported.

Supporters described Golunov's transfer from prison to house arrest as a small victory, suggesting that the government had grown nervous after the furious reaction to the arrest.

State TV on Sunday aired a program in which police officers defended their evidence against Golunov, Reuters said.

BBC Monitoring said that the numerous Kremlin-controlled channels have not otherwise covered the case.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on Golunov.

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