New York, May 7, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns yesterday’s police raid on the popular opposition radio station Krasnaya Armiya in the city of Noyabrsk, in Russia’s central Ural Region.
The station was attacked after the City Election Committee annulled the results of Sunday, May 4, mayoral elections in four electoral districts, giving incumbent mayor Yuri Link the advantage over challenger Anatoly Kudryashov, who had reportedly been leading polls at that point. A wave of protests in support of Kudryashov followed.
During the run-up to the election, the popular Krasnaya Armiya station had staunchly supported Kudryashov while criticizing Link, leading to official harassment and threats.
On the evening of Tuesday, May 6, approximately 40 police officers stormed a local hotel where the radio station had moved temporarily because of the threats. Police cut off electricity to the hotel and used tear gas during the raid.
Krasnaya Armiya director Sergei Zubanov told CPJ that about seven radio employees, as well as hotel security staff and an electrician, were present during the raid. The station’s staff, including Zubanov, was assaulted and handcuffed. Officers also knocked Zubanov’s head against the wall, inflicting serious injuries.
The journalists were then taken to a local police station, where they were detained for several hours.
According to a report published today on Noyabrsk.com (http://nojabrsk.com/), a news Web site run by Zubanov, three of the detained journalists had court hearings today and were fined 1,000 rubles (US$32) for obstructing police work.
Zubanov’s court hearing was postponed because he had to be hospitalized for his head injuries. Meanwhile, his radio station remains off the air. Ironically, May 7 is Radio Day in Russia, a professional holiday for radio workers.
“We are alarmed by the widespread official harassment and violence that journalists in Russia’s provinces endure,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “We urge President Vladimir Putin and local authorities to investigate this incident thoroughly and to ensure that journalists can report the news freely, without fear of retribution.”