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One of the most important parts of the prison detention, that the convict can not communicate, or only on very limited ways (like once in a month can meet his family or so). Sometimes there are same semi-legal, or illegal, but not strictly enforced ways of communication (like on phones smuggled in, typically by bribing the guards to see elsewhere). It is highly dependent on the country and on the case. But that a convict can openly send Instagram posts, is unthinkable. A typical convict is happy if he can talk sometimes to his family on a smuggled phone.

It is because prisons are optimized for these:

  1. To keep the convicts inside.
  2. To minimize their maintenance costs (the salary of the guards).

Keeping things out (mostly: drugs and phones), is only the third in the line.

However, Navalny is in a top security prison in Russia, and it is very likely, that in his case, the highest level of the prison officials are closely watching him. Probably even the highest level of the state officials (Putin).

So, how can Navalny send posts to the Instagram without the approval of the prison officials? Or, if the State allows him this freedom, why?

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  • Note, this is not a legal question. The law is clear in this case: there are strict rules for the convicts which do not allow unlimited Internet access. The reason of that Navalny has, is obviously a political reason.
    – Gray Sheep
    Apr 8 at 17:28
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Your confusion comes from the idea that Navalny is posting himself on his own phone that he somehow has in prison. In fact, his social media account is being run by his lawyers or supporters using messages passed by Navalny through his lawyers, who are allowed to visit him in prison.

This is reported in most articles about his messages. For example The New York Times reported on March 15th about his first post from prison:

Mr. Navalny, whose whereabouts had been unknown for days, said in a message posted on his Instagram page that he had been transferred to Penal Colony No. 2 in the Vladimir Region east of Moscow. Mr. Navalny had passed the message along to his lawyers, who were able to visit him at the penal colony earlier in the day for the first time.

An article published by the BBC on March 31st mentions a later post:

Navalny's Instagram post on Wednesday, published by his lawyers, shows a handwritten note in which the Kremlin critic writes: "I have declared a hunger strike demanding that the law be upheld and a doctor of my choice be allowed to visit me."

While Russia certainly could cut off his access to his lawyers, they're maintaining that his imprisonment is not political, but instead an ordinary prosecution for "violating the probation terms of an embezzlement case". If they took unusual steps in order to prevent him from communicating, they'd be admitting that his prosecution and imprisonment was a politically motivated attempt to silence him.

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