Journalist Who Investigated Navalny’s Poisoning Says He Was Banned From the BAFTA Awards
A journalist who investigated the poisoning of the Russian opposition figure Aleksei A. Navalny and was prominently featured in a documentary film about the imprisoned leader said he was “banned” from attending the British Academy Film Awards, where the film was nominated, after being told his presence would represent a security risk to the public.
The journalist, Christo Grozev, is on the Russian Interior Ministry’s “wanted” list, according to the Russian state-run news agency TASS. His reporting on Russia with the open-source investigative group Bellingcat, including into the 2018 Novichok poisonings, has won multiple international press awards.
Mr. Grozev’s reporting on Mr. Navalny’s poisoning is a key driver of the documentary film, “Navalny.” He sat next to the titular figure during a now-famous scene in which the opposition leader appears to phone a Russian intelligence officer and trick him into confessing the assassination plot.
Mr. Grozev said on Twitter on Friday that he and his family were “banned” from attending Sunday’s BAFTA ceremony in London and had been told that they “represent a public security risk.”
BAFTA organizers told the documentary team that, “on the advice of U.K. police,” they had decided Mr. Grozev and his family “may not attend any BAFTA event this weekend,” the journalist said via direct message on Saturday.
Mr. Grozev said he fled his home in Vienna in January after law enforcement agencies from several countries notified him about risks to his safety from Russian intelligence. He now lives in the United States.
He said he had not received a ban from the Academy Awards, where “Navalny” was nominated for Best Documentary Feature, nor from the Directors Guild of America Awards, which he planned to attend on Saturday night in Beverly Hills, Calif.
BAFTA’s decision reflected “the growing dangers to independent journalists around the world,” Mr. Grozev said on Twitter, adding that the dangers “don’t stem just from murderous dictators, but also from having journalists’ voices hushed — instead of amplified — by the civilized world they are trying to serve.”
The Metropolitan Police, in a statement denying that they specifically ordered such a ban, acknowledged that “our advice can mean organizers have difficult choices to make.”
“The fact that some journalists face the hostile intentions of foreign states whilst in the U.K. is a reality that we are absolutely concerned with,” said the statement, which did not directly name Mr. Grozev.
BAFTA confirmed on Saturday that other members of the “Navalny” team — Diane Becker, Shane Boris, Melanie Miller and Odessa Rae — would attend the ceremony, but did not answer questions about whether Mr. Grozev had been uninvited and why.
“The safety of all our guests and staff at the ceremony is always our highest priority, and we have robust and appropriate security arrangements in place every year,” the award organizers said in a statement.