Russians rally in support of journalist - GulfToday

Russians rally in support of journalist

Russia-Rally

People attend a rally, organised by the Union of Journalists, in Moscow on Sunday. Reuters

Several hundred protesters gathered in Moscow on Sunday in a small, government-authorised rally supporting investigative journalist Ivan Golunov and decrying abuse of power over his five-day arrest this month on drug charges.

The 36-year-old reporter, known for exposing corruption among Moscow officials, was freed following an outcry by supporters who said he was framed by corrupt police.

An unsanctioned rally on June 12, the day after he was released, led to more than 500 detentions, including opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

But Sunday’s event was given the go-ahead, raising questions over whether President Vladimir Putin’s government was trying to provide a safety valve for public anger.

The rally, called by the Russian Union of Journalists and named “Justice and Fairness to Everyone,” had drawn a few hundred people by early afternoon, a witness said.

State news agency TASS cited police saying around 1,600 were there.

Computer programmer Sergey, 28, said he was attending in the hope the protest would help stop others having drugs planted on them as he believes happened to Golunov.

“Someone has to (protest),” he said, noting the small number at the rally. Other demonstrators drew attention to detentions of regional journalists.

“Moscow, Golunov is free. What about the others?” one of the banners read.

Putin fired two police generals over the case on Thursday, and other officers involved have been suspended pending an investigation.

Golunov was invited to Sunday’s event but did not turn up.

Separately, an official from Russia’s security council described as absurd accusations that Moscow used disinformation to sway voters towards right-wing parties in last month’s European Union (EU) elections, Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper reported on Sunday.

An EU review into elections to its parliament, published on Friday, said there was evidence both Russian and European online sources had sought to promote extreme views and polarise debate on issues such as migration and religion.

The preliminary report is the latest in a string of allegations from Western governments that Russia has used online disinformation techniques, including the creation of fake social media accounts, to try to influence voters.

Agencies