Evgenia Novozhenibna/Reuters

MOSCOW—When the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested journalist Ivan Safronov on charges of “state treason” this week, many of his friends were quick to remember what happened to his father. Both men covered news about national defense and Russia’s space program and were recognized as authorities in their field. The elder Safronov, who also was named Ivan, wrote for the newspaper Kommersant until one day in 2007 he plunged out of a window to his death.

The younger Safronov never believed the official conclusion that his father committed suicide. Neither did colleagues at Kommersant. “Defenestration,” pushing people out of windows and blaming accidents or suicide, is viewed as a common, if conspicuous, technique allegedly used by Russian security services for extrajudicial executions.

The younger Safronov took up the banner of investigative reporting at Kommersant and became one of the country’s leading defense correspondents in his own right, but just recently…

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