Prominent TV journalist assaulted in Moscow

New York, November 30, 2001—A well-known Russian television journalist was assaulted and robbed by three unknown attackers in the early morning hours of Friday, November 30, CPJ has confirmed.

Ildar Zhandaryov co-hosts “Bez Protokola” (Without Protocol), one of Russia’s top-rated talk shows, and the movie review program “Interesnoye Kino” (Interesting Movie). Both shows appear on TV-6, currently the only independent Russian television station with a national reach.

TV-6 was recently ordered to liquidate after losing a lawsuit filed by a minority shareholder with close ties to the Kremlin.

“It is highly suspicious that the brutal attack against Zhandaryov should coincide with a legal assault against the station where he works,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge Russian law enforcement authorities to find and prosecute the perpetrators.”

Zhandaryov was assaulted at approximately 3 a.m. as he returned from his late-night program and entered his apartment building. The masked attackers struck the journalist with a blunt object, taped his mouth and eyes shut, and then handcuffed him, according to local press reports. The attackers stole Zhandaryov’s money and apartment keys, as well as valuables from his apartment.

The perpetrators said that someone had “ordered” the attack against Zhandaryov and that he and his program “got on people’s nerves,” Zhandaryov told the Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy.

He was taken to the Sklifosovsky Institute where he was treated for head injuries and released Friday morning. The police have launched an official investigation into the attack.

TV-6 facing liquidation
On Monday, a Moscow appellate court upheld the liquidation of TV-6. The appeal followed a September 27 ruling to liquidate TV-6’s parent company, MNVK.

The lawsuit was filed by LUKoil-Garant, a minority stakeholder in TV-6 and a subsidiary of the LUKoil corporation, a large private Russian oil company with close ties to the Kremlin. The Russian industrial magnate Boris Berezovsky, a bitter opponent of President Vladimr Putin, owns 75 percent of the television station, either outright or through other companies that he controls.

LUKoil-Garant filed suit under an obscure Russian law that prohibits companies from running a deficit for more than two years, but TV-6 supporters argue that the law has been applied selectively. They claim that TV-6’s finances were improving, and that its ratings and advertising revenues have increased dramatically in recent months.

Moreover, LUKoil-Garant only filed the lawsuit against MNVK after a group of journalists, all known for their critical reporting on the Kremlin, moved to TV-6 after resigning from the formerly independent station NTV, which was taken over by the state-owned gas giant Gazprom in April of this year.

While TV-6 continues to broadcast, the recent court decision allows the Ministry of Information and Press to suspend the station’s broadcasting license at any moment. According to the ruling, TV-6 will cease to exist in six months unless its current appeal is successful.

U.S. criticizes court ruling
Although Russia and the United States have been experiencing something of a rapprochement in recent months, White House spokesman Sean McCormack criticized the court ruling against TV-6 on Wednesday, calling it “a step backward and out of keeping with a modern and democratic society,” The Associated Press reported.