Reporters Without Borders is deeply disturbed to learn that two other journalists were the victims of physical attacks this past weekend, in addition to Kommersant reporter Oleg Kashin, who was very badly injured in an assault outside his Moscow apartment.
Sergei Mikhailov, the editor of the local newspaper Saratovsky Reporters, was beaten by unidentified assailants on 5 November in the southern city of Saratov. His attackers fled at the approach of passers-by and he was not badly hurt.
Anatoly Adamchuk, a reporter for the local newspaper Zhukovskiye Vesti, was assaulted near his office in the south Moscow suburb of Zhukovsky on the night of 7 November and was hospitalized with concussion and bruising.
Like Kashin, who had recently written about opposition to plans to route the new Moscow - St. Petersburg freeway through Khimky forest, Adamchuk had covered protests against a planned freeway through Tsagovsky Forest.
The attack on Kashin has prompted a large number of Russian news media to jointly urge the government to guarantee the safety of journalists and ensure that Kashin’s assailants are arrested and brought to justice. An open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev posted on the Openspace.ru website has been signed by more than 2,000 people.
President Medvedev yesterday pledged that those responsible for the assault on Kashin would be punished regardless of their status or position in society. He also said the Russian state would henceforth pay more attention to journalists. The United States, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union have all urged the Russian authorities to make good on these promises.
Reporters Without Borders hails President Medvedev’s statements and joins all those who are pressing the authorities to protect journalists and bring their attackers to justice.
7.11.10 - Famous Kommersant reporter brutally attacked outside his Moscow home
Reporters Without Borders is horrified and appalled by a brutal attack on leading journalist Oleg Kashin outside his Moscow home on the night of 5 November, in which he sustained fractures to the jaw, legs and fingers, and concussion. Kashin, who works for the Moscow-based daily Kommersant, underwent emergency surgery and was placed in an artificial coma.
“By saying ‘the criminals must be found and punished,’ President Medvedev seems to be taking the matter seriously,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “We hold him to his word and we urge the authorities to put all the necessary conditions in place for the police and judicial authorities to be able to work independently and get results.”
Julliard added: “The culture of impunity has prevailed for too long. No crime of violence against journalists has been solved since the start of the past decade. A month ago, we marked the fourth anniversary of journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s murder and we sadly noted that the investigation has gone nowhere. We hope the president’s statement will be transformed into action.
“We are awaiting signs of a real political will on the part of the Russian authorities to defend and ensure respect for the independent press. They should begin by bringing those responsible for acts of violence against the press to justice. They should begin by respecting the rule of law. Kashin is clearly one of his generation’s most brilliant and courageous journalists. Our thoughts are with him and his family.”
A witness said the attack was premeditated. Two people waited for Kashin at the door of his apartment building. When he arrived, they beat him with a blunt object without taking his money, documents, iPhone or any other personal effects. Under interior minister Rashid Nurgalyev’s control, the Moscow prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into attempted murder.
Kommersant editor Mikhail Mikhailin said the attack was without doubt linked to Kashin’s work as a journalist. Vladimir Markin, the spokesman of the prosecutor’s office investigating commission, confirmed that this would be the working hypothesis.
One of Kommersant’s most influential journalists, Kashin has written a many articles about politics and social issues, taking a particular interest in opposition movements such as Oborona and NBP and the pro-Kremlin youth movements Nashi and Molodaya Gvardia. He recently covered the dispute between environmentalists and officials who want to build a freeway through Khimki forest on the Moscow outskirts. An environmental activist was beaten with a baseball bat in Khimki last week.
Kashin was recently threatened by the pro-Kremlin youth movement Molodaya Gvardia, whose website called for him to be “punished” for interviewing one of the young men involved in ransacking the Khimki municipal administrative building in July. After the attack on Kashin, Molodaya Gvardia voiced support for him.
Mikhail Beketov, editor of the Khimki-based newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda and outspoken critic of local municipal corruption and the irregularities surrounding the Khimki forest freeway project, was himself attacked and severely beaten outside his home in 2008. He lost a leg and the use of his hands and has irreversible neurological damage.
Russia is ranked 140th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.