New York, July 14, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the arrests on Sunday of Eike Korfhage and Henning Wallerius, photography students at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, and reporters for their campus radio station Hertz 87.9. Korfhage and Wallerius had traveled to St. Petersburg to report on protests surrounding the Group of Eight summit that begins on Saturday, Hertz 87.9 said.
A judge in St. Petersburg sentenced Korfhage and Wallerius to 10 days in prison on Tuesday for “urinating in public,” according to Russian and international press reports. Both denied the charge. Police had initially accused the student journalists of participating in an anti-G8 protest, but they later changed the charge.
“We’re concerned that this action is arbitrary, and we call on Russian authorities to release Eike Korfhage and Henning Wallerius and allow them to report on the G8 summit and related events,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.
In a separate development, the upper house of Parliament today approved a bill broadening the definition of extremism to include media criticism of state officials. The measure, which was approved by Parliament’s lower house on July 8, now goes to President Vladimir Putin for his signature. The bill provides for imprisonment of up to three years for journalists and the suspension or closure of publications.