Police detain foreign journalists on the way to opposition rally

May 18, 2007

Adrian Bloomfield, The Daily Telegraph
Alan Cullison, Wall Street Journal
Allard Detiger, Dutch Broadcasting Foundation
Boris Raitshuster, Focus


Russian police detained three foreign journalists in a Moscow airport as they prepared to fly to the southern city of Samara to cover a rally led by former chess world champion and Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov to protest the Kremlin’s silencing of Russia’s opposition.

Police held Bloomfield, Cullison, and Detiger for more than five hours and released them five minutes before the last plane to Samara departed from the Sheremetevo airport, Bloomfield told CPJ. The police accused the journalists of buying fake tickets.

“We asked the police officers to release an official statement on our arrest, but they refused,” Bloomfield said.

Later that day in Samara, police detained Boris Reitschuster, Moscow bureau chief of the German magazine Focus, after he stopped at a bank on his way to the demonstration, which was organized by the opposition coalition The Other Russia.

Two cars filled with Interior Ministry agents in civilian clothing drove up to Reitschuster and Denis Bilunov, executive director of the opposition movement United Civil Front, while they were waiting in the bank, according to local press reports. The agents got out of their cars, showed the journalist their identification, and took the men to the local police station.

Reitschuster told the independent Moscow radio station Ekho Moskvy that the police said he fit the description of a criminal suspect and they had to identify him at the police station. Although Reitschuster showed the police his press card and repeatedly explained that he was a foreign correspondent, he was held for an hour and a half and released only after the rally ended, according to local press reports.

Shortly before his arrest, Reitschuster interviewed Kasparov, who called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to support Russia’s opposition movement, the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.