Investigative journalist Christo Grozev, a key figure in the story of acclaimed documentary Navalny, says he and his family have been banned from attending the BAFTA ceremony on Sunday because he poses “a public security risk”.
Grozev, who is affiliated with the Netherlands-based investigative journalism group Bellingcat, was part of the team that uncovered the 2020 plot to kill Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny by poisoning.
The journalist tweeted yesterday that he has been banned from Sunday’s BAFTA ceremony where the film is nominated for Best Documentary.
“I was surprised to discover that my whole family and I have all been banned by British police from attending this weekend’s Bafta awards where the documentary #Navalny is nominated. The reason stated: we ‘represent a public security risk’,” he tweeted.
“I understand the need to keep the public safe (although I don’t understand how my son or teenage daughter constitute risk to the public). But moments like this show the growing dangers to independent journalists around the world.
“These dangers don’t stem just from murderous dictators, but also from having journalists’ voices hushed – instead of amplified – by the civilised world they are trying to serve.”
Grozev features prominently throughout Daniel Roher’s Oscar and BAFTA-nominated doc alongside Maria Pevchikh, the head investigator for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.
The film features extensive interviews with Navalny, as he recuperates from the assassination attempt in a safe house in Germany, and also follows Grozev and Pevchikh’s efforts to uncover the details of the poisoning plot.
Their findings suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in the operation.
The final scenes of the documentary follow Navalny as he defiantly returns to Russia, where he is immediately arrested and is now serving a nine-year sentence under harsh conditions in a Russian penal colony. Read Deadline‘s interview with Grozev and Roher on the film here.
BAFTA, when contacted by Deadline on Grozev’s claims, said it couldn’t comment on individual cases but stressed that safety of guests was paramount.
“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 body said in an official statement.
Asked whether Pevchikh had also been invited to attend, the academy said it did not reveal its guest list but only announced the nominees and presenters due to attend.
The academy noted that the producers of the film Diane Becker, Shane Boris, Melanie Miller and Odessa Rae were expected to be present.
London’s Metropolitan Police responded to Gozev’s tweet with an update on the situation, noting that “police do not and cannot ban anyone from attending a private event…We recognise that our advice can mean organisers have difficult choices to make when deciding how best to mitigate any risks to the security of their event, and we are grateful for the ongoing engagement of BAFTA.”
The tweet seems to imply that BAFTA made the decision to bar Grozev on the advice of the police.
“We cannot comment on the safety of an individual or the advice they may have been given,” the Met added.
“However, the situation that journalists face around the world and the fact that some journalists face the hostile intentions of foreign states whilst in the UK is a reality that we are absolutely concerned with.
“We are committed to working with our intelligence partners to investigate these threats and to take other steps to ensure the safety of those concerned.
UK MP Alicia Kearns tweeted in response to Grozev that she has “raised [the issue] with Ministers — you are not the security risk.”
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