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State-Approved Rally Held In Moscow In Support Of Free Media

State-Approved Rally Held In Moscow In Support Of Free Media
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MOSCOW -- The Russian Interior Ministry says nearly 1,600 people have turned out for an authorized rally in Moscow in support of free media in Russia, which critics have described as a "fake" event.

Other sources put the number of participants in the June 16 demonstration on Sakharov Avenue at between 300 and 600.

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

Golunov was released from house arrest on June 11 after the country's interior minister announced that criminal charges against him would be dropped. The move came after an unauthorized solidarity rally for the reporter saw hundreds of people arrested.

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 gathering under the slogan "Justice for All."

Golunov himself did not attend.

The state-run TASS news agency quoted Solovyev as saying on June 15 that he had invited Golunov to the rally 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."

"Many reporters are currently in prison under the same article that they attempted to charge Ivan with," he added.

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.

On June 12, several hundred people marched through central Moscow in an unsanctioned protest aimed at maintaining pressure on authorities over Golunov's case.

OVD-Info, an independent group that monitors police crackdowns against demonstrations in Russia, said that more than 500 demonstrators were detained.

Organizers of the demonstration 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

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