- Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov was released Tuesday after Russian officials dropped drug charges that had been brought against him last week.
- Golunov said that he had been framed because of his reporting on government corruption.
- Russian journalists responded by launching a multi-day protest, and prominent Russian newspapers called for his release in a move experts have said was unprecedented.
Russian government authorities dropped drug trafficking charges against investigative journalist Ivan Golunov Tuesday, following significant backlash and protests from Russian journalists and media over his arrest.
Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement that the charges had been dropped because of a lack of evidence.
“According to the results of biological, forensic and fingerprint examinations and DNA testing, a decision was made to terminate the criminal prosecution of citizen Ivan Golunov due to the lack of evidence of his participation in the crime,” Kolokoltsev said in the statement.
Golunov was arrested and detained by police on Thursday, and after an invasive search, the officers claimed to have found drugs in his backpack. The police also said they found more drugs and other paraphernalia when they searched his apartment.
He was later charged with drug trafficking and taken to prison, though he denied the charges and said he was framed because of his reporting on high-level Russian corruption.
Suspicion Around Arrest
Others were quick to echo Golunov’s accusation against the police.
Golunov, who is well-known in Russia for his investigative work, had been writing for an online publication called Meduza, which is Russian-owned but is operated in Latvia to avoid persecution.
Following Golunov’s arrest, Meduza published a statement online defending him and arguing that his imprisonment was politically motivated. “We are convinced that Ivan Golunov is innocent,” the statement said. “Moreover, we have reason to believe that Goll-Loo-Noff is being persecuted because of his journalistic activities.”
Meduza also outlined suspicious activities surrounding Golunov’s arrest. According to the statement, Golunov’s lawyers requested that the police test his hands and nails to see if he had touched narcotics. The police refused.
Meduza also said that Golunov had been beaten by police when he was detained, but when he and his lawyer requested he go to a hospital he was again denied. Meduza additionally noted that Golunov had received threats over his work in recent months
Following the arrest, the police launched their own publicity campaign, publishing nine “incriminating” pictures of drugs and a pharmaceutical scale that they claimed they took at Golunov’s apartment.
However, several journalists quickly established that the pictures were not actually taken in his apartment. Shortly after, the police backtracked and admitted that most of the pictures were in fact taken elsewhere.
After the police fumble, even the Russian government acknowledged that there was conflicting information in the case.
“We have paid attention to the corrections that were later published, and we also proceed from the fact that there are several issues that are in need of a clarification,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
On Friday, Russian journalists launched a protest in front of the police headquarters in Moscow.
Under Russian law, protestors are required to get permits two weeks before planned demonstrations, but the protestors came up with a clever solution. Instead of all protesting together, activists took turns standing one at a time and holding a sign for 15 minutes or so and then passing the post off to the next person.
People lined up down the block to take turns to be the one-person protest. Reportedly, the line was so long that people waited for hours.
Unsurprisingly, police special forces moved quickly to detain about a dozen protestors, including some prominent Russian journalists who were held in custody for a little while before being released.
However, the line kept getting longer and longer, and those protests continued all weekend, even moving to the court where Golunov was set to appear for a hearing.
At the same time, a number of Russian celebrities and artists took to social media to call for Golunov’s release, and argued that his arrest was a violation of freedom of speech and an important test case for rule of law.
Russian Newspapers Express Support
The most surprising move came on Monday, when three leading Russian business newspapers published the same exact front pages with the headline: “I/We are Ivan Golunov.”
While all three of those newspapers are private rather than state-owned, all of them are usually very loyal to the Russian government.
After that, even a few very prominent pro-government broadcasters express skepticism about the case. Additionally, a petition calling for Golunov’s release reportedly received 7,500 signatures from other journalists, including those who worked for state-owned outlets.
As a result, experts have described the act as an unprecedented expression of solidarity with another journalist, as well as an unprecedented defiance of the Kremlin.
While Golunov’s release is an exciting and watershed moment for journalists in Russia, many wonder if it is just a one-off occurrence. Russia has long been criticized for its treatment of independent journalists, and just recently, have significantly ramped up their censorship efforts in the past few months.
In March, Vladimir Putin signed two new laws that would punish anyone who spread “fake news” or insulted the government with heavy fines and jail time. Under those laws, online media can be reported to the government, which then can block access to websites if the content that violates the law.
Golunov’s arrest was also not an isolated incident. On Friday, Meduza published an article listing 8 other journalists and activists who have gotten prison time for “drug charges” over the last few years.
See what others are saying: (The New Yorker) (CNN) (BBC)
Instagram Couple Apologizes for Disrespectful Post at Bali Temple
- Czech Instagram influencers Sabina Dolezalova and Zdenek Sloukat apologized after posting a video that showed Slouka splashing Dolezalova’s butt with holy water at the Beji Temple in Bali’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
- The post received backlash after it was re-uploaded by a Balinese senator, with many calling the couple’s actions disrespectful.
- Slouka and Dolezalova later posted a second video apologizing for the incident and said they did not realize the water and the temple were holy.
Backlash in Bali
Two influencers apologized after receiving backlash for posting a video of themselves playing with holy water at a temple in Bali.
The now-deleted video was posted by Czech fitness influencers Sabina Dolezalova and Zdenek Sloukat at a temple in Bali’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud.
In the video, Dolezalova bent over and lifted her skirt while Slouka splashed holy water on her butt.
The couple came under fire for the video after Balinese senator Arya Wedakarna reuploaded the video on his Instagram account saying it was “insensitive” and that the influencers were “harassing” the temple.
Many people reacted to the post, condemning the couple for disrespecting Bali’s culture and calling for them to be kicked out of the country.
“This is completely insensitive to local culture,” one user wrote. “Before you travel to another country you should read up on local culture and educate yourself.”
Dolezalova and Slouka posted a video apologizing for the stunt, which Wedakarna also shared on his Instagram along with a screenshot of a private message Dolezalova sent him apologizing for the incident.
“We are so sorry about the video from yesterday,” Slouka said in the video. “We dishonored the holy temple and holy water in Ubud and we didn’t know it. So we are so sorry about what happened and apologize to you.”
“We had no idea that was some holy water or that there is a holy temple so we really didn’t want to do anything bad,” Dolezalova added. “We are so truly sorry and we hope you gonna forgive us, and now we are just finding what we can do to fix it.”
But the outrage did not end there. Some responded to the apology video saying that it seemed insincere or fake.
Others who spoke Czech pointed out that the influencers must have known it was holy water because the person filming the video told them it was.
“They knew very well it was holy water the woman filming this says it out and loud,” one user wrote.
“You apologized just because you got caught,” another user said.
After the video went viral, Bali’s governor Wayan Koster announced that the government would do more to protect holy sites from tourists.
“In the future, if there are tourists behaving like that we should just send them home, they are being disorderly coming to Bali,” he said in a statement. “We will give them this warning.”
According to The Telegraph, the couple tried to make amends with the people of Bali by participating in “a ritual purification ceremony where they wore traditional clothes and touched pressed hands to their heads as a show of respect.”
Wedakarna argued that the ritual should be mandatory for tourists who publicly disrespect Bali in the future.
“They made a mistake sullying our island,” he told reporters. “Anyone who violates our traditions must take part in a purification ritual.”
Dolezalova’s manager also told the Czech site Sezman that the situation had been resolved.
“Sabina and her friends are continuing on holiday as planned,” he said. “A voluntary contribution was proposed to the local village. Whatever amount Sabina and her friends give, it is up to them and purely voluntary.”
See what others are saying: (The Independent) (VICE) (Yahoo News)
Creators File Lawsuit Against YouTube Over Alleged LGBTQ+ Discrimination
- A group of LGBTQ+ creators have filed a lawsuit against YouTube and Google claiming that YouTube flags, suppresses, and demonetizes LGBTQ+ videos.
- The lawsuit claims YouTube restricts content featuring certain LGBTQ+ tags such as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “transgender.”
- YouTube has denied such claims in the past but has not responded specifically to the lawsuit.
The Lawsuit Against YouTube and Google
Several LGBTQ+ creators are suing YouTube and its parent company Google for allegedly discriminating against LGBTQ+ content on YouTube.
Among the accusations, the creators claim YouTube restricts recommendations, demonetizes, and alters the thumbnails of LGBTQ+ videos.
Creators Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers of BriaAndChrissy, Amp Somers of Watts The Safeword, Chase Ross, Linsday Amer, Chris Knight, Celso Dulay, and Cameron Stiehl all filed the class-action lawsuit Tuesday in San Jose, California.
“Our LGBTQ+ content is being demonetized, restricted, and not sent out to viewers which has highly affected our ability to reach the community we strongly want to help,” Chambers said in a video posted the same day.
In the suit, Kam and Chambers argue that their channel previously earned about $3,500 each month but now only generates about $400-500 monthly.
After posting a music video called “Face Your Fears,” Kam and Chambers said the video was categorized under “restricted mode.” The video was filmed as a dedication to the 2016 Orlando Pulse Shooting, and it features Bria and Chrissy kissing in front of anti-gay protesters.
“They flagged our pride,” YouTuber Chase Ross said. “They did not allow us to buy ads. They restricted us, they demonetized us, and they did not stand up for us.”
Last year, Ross, who often posts about trans issues, accused YouTube of age-gating his videos for including the word “transgender” in the titles.
“Growing up, I was in a very religious household,” said Amp Somers of the sex education channel Watts The Safeword. “I didn’t get any sort of gay education, alone queer education, that applied to me and the sex I was going to have. I created content on the internet that I wish I would have had growing up, but we’re finding it harder and harder to create content on this platform. Google and YouTube continue to censor us and tell us that we’re not breaking any rules but that our content is still not allowed and going to be restricted on this platform.”
YouTube Content Selection and Enforcement
The creators also claim YouTube is restricting LGBTQ+ content featuring words like “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “transgender,” or “queer.” Notably, YouTube does not publish its algorithm, which can make it hard to tell if your content is actually being suppressed.
While a YouTube spokesperson replied with “no comment” to the lawsuit, YouTube has denied similar claims in the past. Last week, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki pushed back against claims that videos are demonetized for falling under LGBTQ+ categories.
In an interview with vlogger Alfie Deyes, she said, “We do not automatically demonetize LGBTQ content… We work incredibly hard to make sure that our systems are fair.”
She also said YouTube does not have a policy to demonetize a video if it has a certain word in the title, and said both the process for recommending videos and determining ads are independent of each other.
On Wednesday morning, after news of the lawsuit spread, Wojcicki posted Deyes’ Aug. 4 video on Twitter, though it’s unclear if the timing is related.
Another part of the lawsuit says because YouTube is the largest video streaming website, it holds a near-monopoly.
The suit states YouTube “used their monopoly power over content regulation to selectively apply their rules and restrictions in a manner that allowed them to gain an unfair advantage to profit from their own content to the detriment of its consumers.”
The creators use the argument to claim YouTube “goes easy” on some of its biggest creators and cite content from James Charles, an issue that has also been raised in the past with YouTubers like Logan Paul and Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie.
“[YouTube] continue[s] to restrain the innocuous travel videos of Watts The Safeword under its Restricted Mode, age restrictions, and demonetization rules and practices, while allowing objectively and sexually explicit content that Google/YouTube sponsor and/or profit from to run unrestricted on the YouTube platform,” the suit alleges.
It continues by citing examples from a recent video on the beauty YouTuber’s channel showing him wearing a G-string and spanking a woman’s bare butt while at Coachella.
Even though Watts The Safeword features more mature content, the channel says it personally applies the restricted mode filter to its more sexually explicit videos.
According to the Washington Post, “eleven current and past moderators, who have worked on the front lines of content decisions, believe that popular creators often get special treatment in the form of looser interpretations of YouTube’s guidelines prohibiting demeaning speech, bullying and other forms of graphic content.”
YouTube has also denied those claims.
Following this lawsuit, many online said they were standing with the creators suing YouTube and Google.
Some on Twitter even shared their own experiences trying to generate LGBTQ+ content on YouTube.
my LGBTQ videos on youtube have been restricted and/or demonetized from day 1, causing me to lose the watch time i needed. when i earned the amount of watch time back, youtube REFUSED to reinstate my monetization, and i couldnt justify making LGBTQ+ content anymore.— 𝙖𝙪𝙩𝙪𝙢𝙣 🔜 colossalcon east (@autumnhause) August 14, 2019
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Influencer Ayesha Malik Accuses Priyanka Chopra of “Encouraging Nuclear War” With Pakistan
- Influencer and beauty YouTuber Ayesha Malik accused Indian actress Priyanka Chopra of supporting a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
- Malik’s accusation was in reference to a tweet Chopra posted in support of India after they launched airstrikes on Pakistan in February.
- Meanwhile, tensions between India and Pakistan have risen in recent days after India revoked Kashmir’s special autonomous status.
- Kashmir is currently under a security lockdown and communications blackout enforced by Indian military forces.
Ayesha Malik Questions Priyanka Chopra
Influencer and beauty YouTuber Ayesha Malik accused Indian actress Priyanka Chopra of encouraging nuclear war between India and Pakistan during a question and answer session led by Chopra at BeautyCon on Saturday.
“So it was kind of hard hearing you talk about humanity, because as your neighbor, a Pakistani, I know you’re a bit of a hypocrite,” Malik said in the now-viral video.
Malik went on to read a tweet posted by Chopra amid escalating tensions between India and Pakistan in February, which read, “Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces.” The phrase “Jai Hind,” loosely translates to “Hail India” or “Long Live India.”
Copra’s tweet was referring to the fact that India had just launched airstrikes on Pakistani soil, prompting Pakistan to retaliate with airstrikes on Indian soil.
At the time, Chopra received backlash for cheering India’s airstrikes on Pakistan, especially after she condemned Pakistan for responding by doing the same on Twitter.
“You are a UNICEF ambassador for peace, and you’re encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan,” Malik continued. “There’s no winner in this. As a Pakistani, millions of people like me have supported you in your business of Bollywood and you want nuclear war.”
Malik then had the microphone taken from her by security personnel.
Chopra responded to the allegations first by asking Malik if she was “done venting.”
“Whenever you’re don’t venting”. Sorry, didn’t realize that speaking on a humanitarian crisis was “venting” pic.twitter.com/OqCLgjDNa1— Ayesha Malik (@Spishaa) August 11, 2019
“I have many, many friends from Pakistan. And I am from India,” she continued. “And war is not something that I am really fond of, but I am patriotic. So I’m sorry that, if I hurt sentiments to people who do love me and have loved me.”
“But I think that all of us have a sort of middle ground that we all have to walk,” she added. “Just like you probably do as well, the way you came at me right now.”
“I love India as much as I love Pakistan,” Malik said.
“No, don’t yell, we’re all here for love,” Chopra responded. “Don’t yell, how embarrassing.”
After the interaction at BeautyCon, Malik took to Twitter to address what happened, and why she chose to speak to Chopra.
“It was hard listening to her say, ‘we should be neighbors and love each other’ — swing that advice over to your PM,” she wrote. “Both India and Pakistan were in danger. And instead she tweeted out in favor for nuclear war.”
“It took me back to when I couldn’t reach my family because of the blackouts and how scared/helpless I was,” Malik continued. “She gaslit me and turned the narrative around on me being the ‘bad guy’ — as a UN ambassador this was so irresponsible.”
Rogue Rocket interviewed Malik about the interaction, and she expanded on the same sentiment struck in her tweet.
“You can’t be an extremist patriot and also a U.N. Ambassador trying to build bridges between countries. It doesn’t make sense,” she said.
“Before the mic was snatched from me, what I was going to ask her was, ‘Will you relinquish your as the U.N. Ambassador for Peace, or will you denounce your tweets against nuclear war?’”
Others also addressed the incident on Twitter, criticizing how Chopra responded to Malik.
Some said that Chopra had talked down to Malik and embarrassed herself.
Others said Chopra was condescending and did not act like a U.N. ambassador.
A number of people also defended Chopra, with some saying her tweeting “Jai Hind” was just out of respect for Indian soldiers and did not mean she supports nuclear war.
The Situation in Kashmir
Meanwhile, tensions between the two nuclear powers increased recently, after India announced that it was taking away the special autonomous status given to the state of Kashmir.
Kashmir is a contested region that both India and Pakistan claim complete control over, and now many experts and global leaders have described the move by India as a power-grab and are concerned the two countries will be drawn into a conflict.
Since India announced they were taking away Kashmir’s special status, Indian military forces have been enforcing a widespread security crackdown and communications blackout on the 4 million people in the territory.
The crackdown has left the Kashmiri’s without the internet or the ability to contact their families, and forced many to stay in their homes by imposing a near-constant curfew.
According to Al Jazeera, razor wire coils and steel barricades have been set up to maintain the blockade, and drones and helicopters are hovering over the region.
People in Kashmir defied the lockdown this week when hundreds took to the streets to protest. This came after military forces used tear gas to break up about 8,000 anti-government protestors in a demonstration over the weekend.
While it has been reported that some schools and businesses that had previously been closed are now open again, the entire territory is still being patrolled by tens of thousands of military forces.
Meanwhile, many in the international community have said the lockdown is concerning and will likely increase tensions.
Malik told Rogue Rocket that her intention was always to bring what is happening in Kashmir to the forefront of mainstream media.
“Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris, and I want that message to be louder than anything else because there’s a lot of focus on me for some reason when the focus should be on the message that I was trying to yell across the stage where we need to bring attention to Kashmir,” she said.
“I remember as a child, Kashmir has always been an issue, but nobody else has been talking about it except for Pakistanis, Indians, and Kashmiris,” Malik continued.
“And for the first time in my life, I’m seeing Kashmir headline worldwide, thank God, but I want the attention to be directly towards the Kashmiris that are going through this humanitarian crisis and not me.”