Radio Liberty reporter barred from Beslan anniversary

New York, September 1, 2005— The Committee to Protect Journalists voiced outrage at the unrelenting harassment of reporter Yuri Bagrov who was prevented by Russian police today from covering the first anniversary of the Beslan school hostage tragedy.

Bagrov, a North Caucasus correspondent for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, told CPJ he was held for four hours after arriving in the north Ossetian town of Beslan, where thousands have gathered to mourn the 331 victims of the siege of School No. 1 a year ago. Bagrov was released after questioning but he was unable to cover the anniversary. He said police told him he did not have proper accreditation.

A Russian court pulled Bagrov’s passport and press credentials last year as part of a politicized criminal prosecution. By stripping him of his passport the authorities have made it impossible for Bagrov to travel outside the area around his hometown of Vladikavkaz. Beslan is 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Vladikavkaz. Bagrov traveled there with several fellow journalists.

Bagrov said an unknown man in plainclothes stopped him as he left the police station and warned him not to return to Beslan until after the anniversary ceremonies are over next Monday. “He told me I would bring serious problems upon myself if I did, ” Bagrov added
Bagrov has been the target of intimidation by police and the Federal Security Service for more than a year.

“The Russian authorities must stop this harassment of Yuri Bagrov who has been made a virtual prisoner in his own home,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call upon President Putin to ensure that local authorities give him back his passport and press accreditation.”

For a detailed background on Bagrov’s case, read CPJ’s alert from May 23: