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Russian investigative reporter detained on drug charges

June 7, 2019

A investigative reporter with Meduza, an independent Russian-language media outlet, has been detained in Moscow over alleged drug dealing in what the publication said Friday was punishment for his work.

Ivan Golunov was detained in central Moscow on Thursday and a package containing drugs was found in his backpack, Meduza said.

“Golunov said that the package did not belong to him,” the publication said, citing the journalist’s lawyer Dmitry Dzhulai.

“Another package and scales were found during the search of Golunov’s apartment.”

The Russian-language news website Meduza is based in EU member Latvia to circumvent censorship but some of its journalists live in Russia.

A police spokesman told AFP a 36-year-old man was detained in Moscow with five packages containing powder.

The police spokesman did not identify the man but said he had been found to be in possession of 4 grammes of mephedrone, a recent designer drug.

A criminal probe into illegal production of drugs and drug dealing has been opened, the police spokesman added.

Meduza decried the journalist’s arrest.

“Ivan Golunov is one of Russia’s most famous investigative journalists,” the publication’s general director Galina Timchenko and editor-in-chief Ivan Kolpakov said in a statement.

“We have reasons to believe that Golunov is being persecuted for his journalistic work,” they said, adding that the journalist has been receiving threats in recent months.

Golunov’s lawyer told AFP that the journalist had been beaten in detention.

“He was detained at 2.30 pm yesterday and I only got a call at 4.30 am,” Dzhulai said.

During his two decades in power President Vladimir Putin silenced most critics and muzzled independent media.

The few opposition and independent media that still operate in Russia are under huge pressure, Kremlin critics say.

Golunov’s arrest sparked outrage among his supporters and journalists.

Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center said Golunov was a close friend and did not take stimulants because he did not like an “altered state of mind.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.