A reporter framed

Some unexpectedly good reporting from Moscow in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Here’s the NYT from this last Friday and Saturday:

Ivan Golunov, 36, a reporter who has specialized in exposing corruption in Moscow City Hall, was detained on Thursday on his way to meet a fellow reporter…

…A Russian investigative journalist was placed under two months’ house arrest in Moscow on Saturday, accused of selling drugs.

This bit is from yesterday’s piece in the WaPo:

Golunov — whose investigations uncovered apparent corruption in the Moscow mayor’s office, in the funeral business and elsewhere — and his news outlet, Meduza, say that the police planted drugs on the reporter to bring a case against him as punishment for his work.

There’s no good reason to doubt this claim. The reporter doesn’t fit the profile of a minor drug dealer. No one has ever seen him take drugs or act like a drug user. He has never been much of a drinker, either, in contrast to the older generation of Russian sleuths (Golunov is 36).

On the other hand, the targets of his investigations had both motive and opportunity to frame the reporter. The motive is obvious. The opportunity – or, rather, capability – stems from their symbiotic relationship with the city’s police force. It’s impossible for a city official to succeed in her corrupt designs without protection from a senior police official and/or an FSB officer assigned to the city or region.

This brings us to the question, “why now”? Golunov has years of experience as an investigative reporter, so he has risked getting attacked, beaten to within an inch of his life (like Oleg Kashin) or even killed (like some other Russian journalists). Now someone is trying to destroy him via the legal system, but – unexpectedly – Russian journalists have supported him almost unanimously (even some of those working for the Putinist media), public opinion has turned against the police, and international condemnation has been swift and unequivocal.

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