Local television journalist violently attacked

New York, May 19, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns today’s violent attack against Aleksandr Stetsun, a journalist with Ural Television Agency (TAU), an independent station in the city of Ekaterinburg, 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) east of the capital, Moscow, in the Ural Mountains.

The attack occurred this morning while Stetsun was standing outside his home waiting for colleagues to pick him up for work, according to local reports.

According to a TAU staff member, Stetsun told colleagues that he saw a man running toward him, whom he thought was a jogger, and felt a slight blow to his back as the man ran by him. The journalist thought the man had hit him accidentally.

Stetsun’s colleagues arrived in a car several minutes later and noticed a screwdriver-like object jammed in his upper back. They immediately rushed him to the hospital, and he is currently recovering at home.

Local police questioned Stetsun and his colleagues after the attack and have opened a criminal investigation into the incident.

Stetsun’s colleagues suspect that the attack might be connected to the journalist’s work, because his television reports have sharply criticized local politicians.

“We demand that both regional and federal authorities conduct a thorough investigation into this attack,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Journalists in Russia’s provinces have been at risk for far too long. The government must create an atmosphere in which the media can work safely, without fear of reprisal.”