By Edoardo Zandonà
A Russian journalist working for a local newspaper near Moscow was severely beaten on Monday just outside his office, and had to be hospitalised with a concussion and other minor injuries. This is the second case in just two days of a journalist being violently assaulted in Russia, after Oleg Kashin, a reporter for the popular daily newspaper Kommersant, was badly injured and is now in a coma.
The journalist, named Anatoly Adamchuk, was reporting plans of cutting down trees in the Khimki forest near Moscow to build a controversial highway, and his colleagues believe this could be the motive for the attack. Adamchuk had previously written about the arrest of several youths aged between 11 and 14 who were protesting against the highway’s construction.
Anastasia Grigoriyeva, a colleague of Adamchuk from the weekly paper Zhukovskie Vesti, said he was beaten up “just ten metres away from our editorial office.” “He didn’t see their faces, but he heard them cry out the name of our publication several times,” she added.
Oleg Kashin, who was assaulted last Saturday, had also reported protest actions and conflicts in Khimki about the construction of the new highway. Kashin had to be put in a medically induced coma after the attack, which caused him fractures in both legs and fingers, a broken jaw and a damaged skull. Kommersant’s editor Mikhail Mikhailin believes the attack was linked to Kashin’s work, in particular to his extensive coverage of anti-governmental demonstrations.
“The thing that bothers me is that at the moment of the beating, they broke his fingers,” said Mikhailin in an interview, “It is completely obvious that the people who did this did not like what he was saying and what he was writing.”
The Kremlin immediately condemned the attack on Kashin, which was classed as attempted murder. President Dmitrij Medvedev declared via Twitter that “the criminals must be punished”, and he instructed the prosecutor general and the interior ministry to take special control of the investigation.
Despite the government’s efforts to distance themselves from the assailers, rights groups still complain the Kremlin has not done enough to stop violent attacks on journalists.
Russia’s human right commissioner, Vladimir P. Lukin, said attacks on journalists “have become systematic” in Russia, mostly because they are never punished. “You cannot provide bodyguards to each journalist”, he explained. “The only way to somehow oppose these attacks is to improve the quality of work of law enforcement.”
Since 2000 there have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists in Russia, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Russia is ranked eighth among the countries were journalists are killed regularly and their murders remain unsolved, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a reporter.