Suspicious death

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‘The death of the person in this story looks suspicious to me…’

Amid allegations that Alexei Navalny’s body has been hidden, and that security cameras were turned off before his death, here our Editor Phil Parry looks at how the tragedy underlines the importance of allowing the kind of free investigative journalism such as he pursues.

Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and made clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.

He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off

Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.

‘COME OUT AND TELL ME HOW THIS PERSON DIED!’

He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.

 

The death in Russia of a very brave man has ramifications for all of us.

Alexei Navalny wasn’t liked by Vladimir Putin

We don’t know the truth of how Alexei Navalny died, but the reason he was in an Arctic jail in the first place was because Vladimir Putin didn’t like the kind of investigations he undertook, which embarrassed him.

All of this emphasises the crucial role a free media has to play in supporting a functioning democracy – which Russia (that only allows a media which shows Mr Putin in a good light – see story soon) ISN’T!

‘I’M TELLING YOU NOSEY JOURNALISTS AND NAVALNY, I’LL GET YOU!’

As President Joe Biden has declared: “Make no mistake: Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death”.

Mr Navalny’s suspicious death has created headlines and protests around the world, even inside Russia itself.

More than 400 extremely courageous people (including journalists) have been arrested following vigils and gatherings in the country, according to independent Russian human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.

Meanwhile it has emerged that Mr Navalny’s mother has been unable to recover his body, which seems callous in the extreme.

Lyudmila Navalnaya visited the penal colony where her son was being held, on Saturday and was given an official notice stating the time of death as 14:17 local time (09:17 GMT)

She has been told by the authorities, apparently, that her son’s body will only be handed over once a post-mortem examination has been completed.

Mrs Navalnaya was also informed that Mr Navalny’s body had been taken to the nearby town of Salekhard, but when she arrived there the morgue was closed.

Lyudmila Navalnay couldn’t retrieve her son’s body

It has also been reported that Russian security officers visited the prison just a few days before Mr Navalny died, and that two officers from the intelligence service FSB disconnected the CCTV and recording devices there.

Mr Navalny was one of the most prominent faces of Russian opposition to Mr Putin’s regime and was serving a three-decade sentence on politically motivated charges at the Polar Wolf penal colony in Kharp, about 1,200 miles (1,900 km) north of Moscow.

Alexei Navalny said the palace was bought “with the largest bribe in history”

One of the things Mr Putin particularly didn’t like was that Mr Navalny had investigated how the Russian leader may have gained his fabulous wealth, and made a video with, among other things, drone footage showing Mr Putin’s luxury palace on the Black Sea.

The Navalny investigation proclaimed that the property cost £1 billion ($1.37 billion) and was paid for “with the largest bribe in history”.

This is Putin’s palace, said Alexei Navalny

It describes the property as 39 times the size of Monaco, and features a casino, an ice hockey complex and a vineyard.

“It has impregnable fences, its own port, its own security, a church, its own permit system, a no-fly zone, and even its own border checkpoint”, Mr Navalny says in the video.

“It is a separate state within Russia”, he adds. “And in this state there is a single, irreplaceable tsar. Putin”.

It has been said that Vladimir Putin’s luxury palace is a ‘state within a state’

It ends with a plea for people to take to the streets. “If 10 per cent of those who are disaffected take to the streets, the government will not dare falsify elections”, Mr Navalny says.

The video is now on YouTube and within a day of it going online, it was watched by 29 million people.

This video, and the protests which have erupted, are fitting tributes to an activist who only wanted to know the truth.

‘BUY MY BOOK!’

Mr Navalny was not whiter than white – at one point he shared a platform with some very unsavoury characters, and he was ambivalent in supporting Ukraine – yet journalists try to do what he did in exposing wrongful practices, but are unlikely ever to measure up to him…

The memories of Phil’s astonishing decades-long award-winning career in journalism (during which attempts were made to hold to account those in power) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!

Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.

‘You have questions to answer…’

Tomorrow – how throughout his long journalistic career, Phil (like Mr Navalny) has never been afraid to take on big institutions such as the police or Roman Catholic (RC) Church, and this is now put centre-stage by new details emerging of how a former Pope stayed silent, when he knew that Jews were being deported to their deaths by the Nazis.