The Corner

World

An Arrest in Moscow

Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov sits inside a defendants’ cage as he attends a court hearing in Moscow, June 8, 2019. (Tatyana Makeyeva / Reuters)

Today we publish the final installment of my Oslo journal, here. I speak of two past participants in the Oslo Freedom Forum. And “past” is the word, I’m afraid. They are Jamal Khashoggi and Raed Fares. They were murdered in recent months — murdered for their journalism.

The Khashoggi case is well known. A Saudi, he was once close to that regime, but he turned against it — and paid the terrible price. Fares was a Syrian, and an inspiration. I wrote about him after he was murdered, here.

In my journal, I quote Bobby Ghosh, the veteran Indian-American journalist, now with Bloomberg Opinion. Indeed, let me excerpt a few paragraphs from my journal.

[Ghosh] speaks about Time magazine’s Person of the Year award for 2018. It was given to specific journalists, dead and alive. (Khashoggi was one.) Never before had the magazine honored a journalist in this way.

A lot of people snorted at the 2018 award: “Oh, journalists honoring journalists! How convenient! How self-congratulatory!” Bobby Ghosh says, “Five, ten years ago, I would have felt the same. But not today.”

I could not agree more. My appreciation for freedom of the press has grown (and it was always strong, I hope). My appreciation for the risks that journalists take, all over the world, has grown too.

Here on the Corner, I would like to take note of Ivan Golunov. He is a Russian reporter, working for the Meduza news site. I first heard about Meduza when I went to the Baltic region in 2016. Meduza is a site for Russian reporters and Russian news. It is based in Riga, because it is very hard to do honest reporting in Russia itself. Lots of corpses attest to this. Many of us have come to depend on Meduza for news on Russia.

Golunov is an extraordinarily brave fellow, reporting on corruption. Last week, he was arrested in Moscow, on drug charges. This is obviously a frame job. To read the New York Times account, go here. Golunov was, of course, beaten up. But it could be worse for him: News of his arrest went around the world. It’s harder to kill someone — even for a dictatorship — when lots of people, in lots of places, are watching.

What do journalists like me risk? Mean tweets? Nasty comments? A dearth of cable “hits”? This is nothing, compared with what journalists are facing, every day, all over the world. I indeed appreciate them more than ever.

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