A prominent Russian investigative journalist, known for his reporting on corruption, has been arrested in Moscow, according to the state news agency TASS.
Ivan Golunov was arrested Thursday after being accused of possessing and attempting to sell drugs. His lawyer and colleagues have accused police of planting the drugs on the 36-year-old and framing him, Reuters reported.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for Golunov’s release as well as investigate allegations that he had been beaten in police custody.
“Russian authorities should immediately drop their charges against Ivan Golunov, release him, and investigate allegations of mistreatment of the journalist in police custody,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.
“Russia has a long history of politically motivated charges against independent reporters. Investigative journalism is treated as a crime where it ought to be viewed as a public service.”
Ivan Kolpakov, the editor-in-chief at Meduza, an online newspaper where Golunov works, told the CPJ that the drug charges were “absurd,” and that he had “no doubts that the charges are fabricated and are related to Golunov’s journalism.”
In a statement posted online, Kolpakov and Meduza CEO Galina Timchenko said Golunov had been beaten by police during detention. A police spokesman rejected those claims, according to TASS.
Meduza also cited Golunov’s lawyer, Dmitry Dzhulai, as saying that the detained journalist had not been allowed to eat or sleep for more than a day.
News of Golunov’s arrest galvanized Russian journalists on Friday, with several dozen holding a small protest outside the Russian Ministry of Interior in Moscow.
Authorities detained at least 11 individuals who were protesting Golunov’s arrest, the monitoring site OVD-Info reported Friday.
Detained protesters included prominent journalists and video on social media showed the arrest of Viktor Shenderovich, a popular Russian columnist.
The opening of the criminal case immediately drew skepticism from local journalists for being fabricated, as Russian reporters routinely face intimidation, harassment and violence.
According to the CPJ, Golunov will appear in court on Saturday, where a judge will rule whether the reporter should be released while the investigation is pending.
If found guilty, Golunov could be jailed for 10 to 20 years, according to Reuters.