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‘Meduza’ stands with ‘Mediazona’ correspondent David Frenkel, who was injured by St. Petersburg police while reporting on Russia’s constitutional plebiscite

Source: Meduza
Anton Vaganov / Kommersant

What you need to know about this incident

David Frenkel, a correspondent for the outlet Mediazona (which covers Russia’s justice system), visited a polling station in St. Petersburg on June 30, in order to confirm the fact that the precinct had tried to expel a voting member of the electoral commission. When the site commissioner asked the police to remove Frenkel for supposedly “impeding” the commission’s work, two officers shoved him to the ground and pinned him against a doorway, breaking his arm. Thankfully, there is video footage of the event clearly showing that Frenkel doing nothing to provoke the officers. He was later hospitalized and treated in a four-hour operation on his arm.

What happened next

The police officers involved in the incident have not been arrested, and investigators are not reviewing these men for hindering the work of a journalist. No one is investigating an abuse of authority. Instead, state officials have concocted ridiculous lies, as if there isn’t video footage — as if no one really knows what happened at the polling station.

The government’s newspaper of record, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, claims that Frenkel “deliberately provoked members of the polling station, observers, and police officers.” An observer from Russia’s Civic Chamber has called the incident a “theatrical production and a planned provocation.” The country’s central election commissioner says no one pushed Frenkel, insisting that he fell on his own and then started screaming. An anonymous city official even claims that Frenkel broke his arm before (!) coming to the polling station in a supposed attempt to frame the authorities. Finally, there’s St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov’s justification for the officers’ conduct: “Sometimes people get a bit over-eager. There’s a frenzy and they’re over-enthusiastic. We’re all human. We’re all flesh-and-blood. It happens.”

But that’s not all: the newspapers Komsomolskaya Pravda and the television channel Tsarygrad later published fake correspondence between Frenkel and an unnamed individual, when “Frenkel” says beforehand that he will be beaten by the police.

What’s wrong here

Everything in this story has been turned inside out, as if the journalist himself is to blame for his broken arm and maybe for even more than that — for breaking his own arm to get back at the police. The logic here is absurd, but it’s no less preposterous than the event Frenkel was covering in the first place: Russia’s plebiscite on constitutional amendments. Mediazona’s reporter found himself shoved and pinned down by police on the penultimate day of this vote — a spectacle that has been promoted widely for everything except its most consequential reform: an amendment that could prolong Vladimir Putin’s presidency to 2036. In fact, in all this nationwide political performance, the only thing real has been David Frenkel’s broken arm.

We live in a world of paradoxes, where up is down and the truth is a lie. So it’s all the more important to catch a cheat red-handed every time. The police who injured Frenkel committed several crimes at once. They must answer for this, and one day they surely will. But we shouldn’t forget about those who lied to our faces. This includes the anonymous city official who is probably reading this very text. Yes, we are writing about you.

Text by Meduza’s editors