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Moscow police must investigate attacks on journalists

Police and protesters at Pushkin Square on Monday. (AP/Sergey Ponomarev)

New York, March 7, 2012--A reporter covering a post-election protest in Moscow suffered a concussion after being assaulted by police, the most serious of at least three attacks on journalists reporting on demonstrations on Monday, news reports said. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the assaults and calls on police to hold the assailants accountable under the law.

Ulyana Malashenko, a reporter for Kommersant FM, the broadcasting arm of the independent business daily Kommersant, was hospitalized after being struck twice in the head with a baton by police dispersing a crowd at Lubyanka Square, the independent news website Lenta reported.

Police were faulted in a second episode as well. Pavel Nikulin, a reporter with the daily Moskovskiye Novosti, told CPJ that police roughed him up during an opposition protest near the Lubyanka metro station. Nikulin told CPJ that a commanding officer identified as Captain Ilya Teleshov seized his press card and ordered him placed in a police van. Nikulin was detained for a couple hours before being freed.

Aleksandr Borzenko, a reporter with the radio station Ekho Moskvy, was attacked by several unidentified assailants while covering a march by nationalist groups, local media reported. Borzenko told the independent daily Moskovsky Komsomolets that he was attacked near the Pushkin metro station, just as he was calling his station to file a report on the rally. He reported the attack to police.

In a public letter, Kommersant FM Editor Dmitry Solopov asked Gen. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, head of Moscow police, whether he "finds the beating of reporters on assignment by police acceptable." Kolokoltsev telephoned Solopov and the two agreed to meet on Sunday to discuss the matter, Kommersant FM reported. According to Ekho Moskvy, Kolokoltsev also issued an order directing that police not obstruct journalists covering the protests, and instructing his subordinates to investigate all reported abuse.

"We are appalled by the assault of our colleagues by police and call on the Moscow police chief to investigate all attacks and bring to justice the assailants, including his own officers," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "Authorities must ensure that journalists report on the protest without obstruction or fear of assault."

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