Pressure mounts on Kremlin to solve journalist attack

8th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Leading Russian journalists increased pressure on President Dmitry Medvedev Monday to end the cycle of violence against their profession as footage of the latest brutal assault dominated news bulletins.

A 90-second clip of what appeared to be the beating of Kommersant business daily reporter Oleg Kashin swept through the Russian Internet and even dominated the morning news on state-run television.

A group of Russian reporters told Medvedev in an open letter -- which appeared on the front page of Kommersant -- that more than a journalist's safety was at issue as these crimes piled up.

"By demanding the protection of reports, what we are talking about is not only our own trade," the letter said. "One must also protect the rights of our readers.

"The rights of reporters to fulfill their obligation in a normal fashion and not worry about their lives -- this is the right of society to speak and be heard."

The letter said that eight Russian reporters had been killed this year already and that another 40 had come under attack.

"Reporters finally have to be protected in Russia," said the letter.

The Internet video showed two assailants surrounding a man as he approached a gate to a residential building in the night hours and felling him to the ground.

One then held him by the upper body while the other beat him with what television said was a lead pipe.

Kashin, 30, underwent a second three-hour operation overnight and his doctors reported his condition as serious but stable.

A newspaper representative said late Sunday that the reporter's life was no longer under threat.

"Oleg is sleeping," said his wife Yevgenia Milova after being allowed to briefly visit Kashin in hospital.

"He is alive," she told reporters through tears. "Everything will be fine."

The early Saturday incident has become major news in a country that struggles with a poor media freedom record that has been criticized heavily by both the European Union and Washington.

The letter was signed by 26 reporters and editors from media outlets as varied as Moscow Echo radio and the Russian edition of Rolling Stone. Hundreds more have subsequently added their names in both Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

They include familiar names in Western rights circles as corruption investigator Yulia Latynina and long-time Moscow Echo editor Alexei Venediktov.

Medvedev has responded to the media uproar by putting the investigation under the supervision of the general prosecutor's office.

No leads have been reported in the case and police have so far refused to confirm the authenticity of the footage or whether it has been added to the file.

They searched Kashin's office on Monday and also planned to interview the paper's editor-in-chief.

Kommersant reporters remain convinced that the attack was linked to Kashin's professional work. He is also known in Russia as a prominent blogger who stands up to officials on both environmental issues and general corruption.

The business daily wrote on Monday that Kashin has been made into a formal enemy by a pro-Kremlin youth group linked to the ruling United Russia party.

The Molodaya Gvardia (The Young Guards) organisation on August 11 reportedly posted a short-list of reporters it planned to "punish."

The list ran under a photograph of Kashin -- whom it identified along with the others as "media saboteurs."

In a new attack on a journalist, Anatoly Adamchuk, who writes for the Zhukovskie Vesti in the Zhukovsky area of southeastern Moscow, was beaten early Monday, leaving him with head wounds, his colleague Sergei Grammatin told Moscow Echo radio.

A security source confirmed the incident but said the details were not yet clear, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

© 2010 AFP

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