The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives, and journalists for press freedom, condemns the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov, who is a correspondent for the Russian-language online publication Meduza.

On June 6, Golunov was detained on the street in central Moscow by plainclothes police officers for alleged drug violations. He was reportedly refused the right to call his lawyer for nearly half a day after his arrest. Golunov’s lawyer reported that the journalist was physically assaulted by the police and denied access to his counsel in the first 14 hours that he was detained. Police then refused to call medical services to examine and treat Golunov’s injuries.

Golunov, an investigative journalist known for exposing large-scale crime and corruption in Moscow, was released from police custody on June 8 and put under house arrest, where he is banned from using the phone or internet. He is now awaiting trial.

Police claim to have found narcotics in Golunov’s backpack and apartment. Golunov, who is being charged with possession of a controlled substance and its attempted illegal sale, maintains his innocence and denies any connection with the evidence against him.

Golunov contributes to various media outlets including Meduza, a Latvia-based news website. In a statement, Meduza editors said that they believe in Golunov’s innocence and that his arrest is in retaliation for his journalistic investigations.

The arrest sparked days-long protests in Moscow. On Monday, three of Russia’s major newspapers ran identical headlines condemning the arrest, reading “We are Ivan Golunov.” Meduza also released Golunov’s investigative work under a Creative Commons license so that it may be freely re-published.

Three major newspapers in Russia published headlines, reading “We are Ivan Golunov.” Photo credit: Meduza

Media coverage of Golunov’s arrest was followed by street protests in Moscow. On Friday several protesters supporting Golunov were detained and later released.

“This is a shock for all independent journalists in Russia,” Artem Filatov, a journalist with RTVI told IPI. “We understand that we need to stand for our beliefs. Otherwise, if he faces punishment for his journalistic work, it leads to huge problems for the whole journalism community. If it is possible with one person, it will be possible with everyone.”

“Golunov’s house arrest and the restrictions imposed on his rights are a brazen violation of press freedom, clearly aimed at limiting Golunov’s ability to work, but also sending a warning message to independent journalists across Russia. Russia must release the journalist immediately and drop all charges against him”, IPI executive director Barbara Trionfi said.  “We applaud the bravery of Russia’s journalist community, and Meduza in particular, in standing up against attacks on press freedom.”