Reporters Without Borders deplores the violent knife attack two nights ago on the radio journalist Sergei Aslanian (Сергей Асланян) in Moscow.
“We note that the police quickly opened an investigation and we hope it will lead to the identification of the perpetrator of this attack, and those who may be behind it, as soon as possible,” the press freedom organization declared.
“Everything possible must be done to prevent this latest incident being added to the long list of attacks on media workers that have gone unpunished in Russia.
“We call for restraint by all sides, and by commentators in their coverage of the subject.”
He received a late-night call at home from an unidentified caller who said he wanted to speak to him in the street outside. When he reached the landing, he was hit violently on the head then stabbed many times before the attacker fled.
Aslanian was taken to Sklifosovski hospital where he was treated for concussion and at least 15 stab wounds to the neck, chest and hands. The journalist underwent surgery and doctors said afterwards his condition was stable and satisfactory.
The police first treated the case as assault and battery under the criminal code, but later changed this to “moderately serious premeditated personal injury”. They are studying CCTV footage from a nearby camera. Police said they were working on a number of theories, including the possibility that the attack was related to the journalist’s work.
Aslanian himself said he believed it was linked to controversial statements he made during the program “Tsentralny Komitet” on 14 May, when he described the Prophet Mohammed as a “businessman” whose business was so successful it continued to prosper today.
He said the founder of Islam had “rewritten the Bible” and was believed to have suffered from “serious sexual problems”. These remarks offended some members of the Muslim community, some of whose representatives lodged a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office accusing the journalist of inciting hatred.
Aslanian said his assailant accused him of “disliking Allah” before the attack.
Religious leaders called for calm and said there might have been provocation. Other sources pointed out that investigations by the journalist into the car industry and corruption in the traffic police could have touched a nerve.
Despite assurances by the former president, Dmitri Medvedev, impunity for those who attack or kill journalists remains widespread in Russia. The country remains stuck in 142nd place out of 179 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders.