Local television journalist brutally attacked

New York, March 19, 2003– The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns yesterday’s violent attack on Olga Kobzeva, a journalist with GTRK Don-TR television, a local branch of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

According to Russian sources, an unknown assailant wielding a broken bottle slashed the journalist’s face on Tuesday evening, March 18, near her home when she was returning from work. None of her personal items were taken, the Russian information agency RIA Novosti reported.

Kobzeva was taken to a hospital, where she underwent surgery and remains in stable condition.

The journalist’s colleagues at Don-TR believe that Kobzeva, who is known for her investigative reports on local affairs, was attacked for her work.

Nikolai Chebotaryov, Don-TR’s general director, told CPJ that the attack might be connected to Kobzeva’s most recent television report, a story about the illegal privatization of buildings in the city. According to Russian news reports, after the report aired, anonymous individuals threatened Kobzeva and the station and urged them to air a retraction of the story.

Local police have launched an investigation into the assault. The Prosecutor General’s Office in Moscow also instructed the regional prosecutor’s office to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack, as well as into the allegations made in Kobzeva’s report.

“We are outraged at this vicious attack against our colleague,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “Journalists across Russia continue to be attacked with impunity, and we therefore call on authorities to investigate this incident aggressively and to prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.”