The apparent frame-up of Russian journalist Ivan Golunov on drug charges and his subsequent release from custody certainly seems like a gross miscarriage of justice by police authorities. If it transpires that Golunov was indeed framed-up by corrupt police officers then those officers should face prosecution accordingly.
The apparent miscarriage of justice in Russia against this journalist was leapt on by Western media as if it were a major international development. And cynically blown out of all proportion. It was reported as an example of Russia’s alleged authoritarian state intolerance towards independent journalists and free speech. There were also giddy claims in Western media that the Kremlin was panicking from the public outcry over the journalist’s detention – and hence its speedy intervention to free him.
A storm in a teacup is a fitting way to describe the case and Western reaction to it. A deplorable miscarriage of justice and apparent police corruption is, unfortunately, not something new in Russian or Western societies. The fact that Golunov was promptly released after higher authorities intervened at least shows an alacrity to rectify a wrongdoing.
In Western states there has been a recent disturbing crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers that far exceeds what was seen in Russia this week. In recent weeks, police forces acting on the highest authority in Australia and France have separately hounded journalists for reporting on their governments’ complicity in illegal espionage and war crimes.
Then there is the barbaric treatment of Australian journalist Julian Assange who is being held in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison by the British government. Assange is awaiting an extradition trial to the US where he faces life in prison on trumped-up espionage charges. Assange is being persecuted because his Wikileaks website published damning evidence of systematic war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and other overseas wars. Assange has also exposed huge crimes of illegal spying around the world by US agencies, as well as countless other violations of international law by Washington and its NATO allies.
Yet the Western media’s immediate, vigorous concern about the detained Russian journalist this week has not been extended to the above-mentioned cases in Australia, France and Britain. Indeed, many Western media outlets not only keep a shameful silence about Assange, they have actually augmented the slander against him, ensuring he won’t get a fair trial.
That smacks of rank hypocrisy and disingenuous in purported Western concern for journalistic ethics and free speech in Russia.
Another reason for skepticism about Western interest in the case of Ivan Golunov is the way his release became the focus for a so-called opposition group led by Alexei Navalny. Unauthorized street protests were organized in Moscow to greet the release of Golunov during which 400 protesters including Navalny were detained by police for public disorder. It is amply documented that Navalny and his acolytes are funded and abetted by Western governments to sow political instability in Russia and undermine state institutions.
It is telling how Western media were all too quick to highlight the case of Golunov and the subsequent demonstrations organized by Navalny, who, typically in Western media coverage, was accorded the status of a “pro-democracy champion” instead of being a foreign agent.
Western claims that media in Russia is repressed and controlled is a propaganda myth. There exists a broad range of independent media which are often very critical of the Kremlin and the government policies of President Vladimir Putin.
One may argue there is a lot more media and intellectual freedom in Russia than in Western states where the major outlets uniformly line up to support criminal wars and foreign aggression committed by their governments – often based on the most outrageous lies which the Western media never bother to expose. They’re too busy dutifully cheering for war. And yet they have the audacity to lecture others about free speech and journalistic independence.
The dramatic Western media coverage given to the Golunov case in Russia this week is just that: drama. It is hypocritical, disingenuous, cynical, and a blatant attempt to exploit an opportunity for interference in Russia’s internal political affairs.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.