Fri, 13 Dec 2019

The Russian Interior Ministry says nearly 1,600 people are taking part in a rally in Moscow in support of free media in Russia, which critics have described as 'fake.'

'An authorized public event is underway on Sakharov Avenue, with some 1,600 taking part,' a police spokesman was quoted as saying by domestic media on June 16.

Other sources put the number of participants at between 300 and 600.

The rally was prompted by recent actions against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov who had been arrested on a drug charge supporters said was fabricated.

Yekaterina Vinokurova, the editor of the state-supported RT television station, Pavel Gusev, Chairman of the Moscow Union of Journalists, and Vladimir Solovyev, Chairman of the Union of Journalists of Russia organized the rally.

Journalists called for the June 16 event under the slogan 'Justice for All.'

Solovyev said on June 15 that he had invited Golunov to attend.

'We would like to hear from him how he sees the further development of civil society, what should we do to avoid our compatriots finding themselves in this situation, because besides Ivan [Golunov], many reporters are currently in prison under the same article that they attempted to charge Ivan with,' Soloviev was quoted as saying by the state-run TASS news agency.

Golunov was released from house arrest on June 11 after the country's interior minister announced that criminal charges against him would be dropped.

As a reporter for the Latvian-based Russian online news site Meduza, Golunov had gained renown for investigating corruption among top Moscow city officials and others.

Meduza's editors and others said Golunov's arrest may have been specifically due to his reporting.

Golunov said in court that he had received threats in connection with his investigation into the funeral business in Moscow.

Last week, several hundred people were detained at rally in central Moscow aimed at maintaining pressure on the authorities following Golunov's release.

Organizers of the June 12 rally had said they had failed to get approval from the city's authorities for the event.

One of them, Ilya Azar, said authorities were using the permitted march on June 16 to 'take over' the protesters' agenda.

Azar called the June 16 rally 'fake' while calling on citizens not to take part in it.

With reporting by dpa and TASS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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