Independent editor severely beaten

New York, November 14, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists denounces the brutal attack on Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the Khimki-based independent newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, and calls on Russian authorities to investigate it thoroughly and bring all those responsible to justice.


Beketov is currently hospitalized in a coma in a local hospital in the city of Khimki.

Neighbors found Beketov unconscious in his backyard in the village of Starbeyevo, Khimki region, on Thursday. He had lain there since the day before, when he was attacked, according to local news reports. He was taken to a local hospital with multiple fractures, hematomas, a cracked skull, and a brain concussion; he has been in coma since. Khimki regional police told the local press that they have opened an investigation into the attack

Beketov had heavily criticized the Khimki administration’s decision to deforest a vast area of the region’s woods in order to build a freeway connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg. He received multiple threats and was often at odds with the local government, local environmental protection group EcoOborona activist Yevgeniya Chirikova, who has contributed to Beketov’s paper, told CPJ.

“We condemn this vicious attack on Mikhail Beketov and call on the authorities to undertake a thorough and transparent investigation into it,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Russia’s record on attacks on independent and critical reporters is appalling and authorities should not let impunity prevail in yet another case.”

Chirikova said Beketov had received multiple threats in connection to his work; in a recent conversation with a colleague, Beketov mentioned that several unknown men had approached him and told him, “You’re due for a hit.”

Chirikova told CPJ that Beketov’s paper was the only outlet that covered environmental issues and criticized the Khimki administration on their environmental blunders. “Now this vicious attack has silenced him–there’s no doubt they attacked him for his journalism,” Chirikova said. EcoOborona wrote an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev today, calling him to ensure that the attack is properly investigated.

According to independent radio station Ekho Moskvy, the deputy head of Russia’s state environmental agency Rosprirodnadzor, Oleg Mitvol, also said that the attack was related to Beketov’s journalism.

After Khimkinskaya Pravda published an article on excavations at a World War II burial site in 2007, local prosecutors opened a criminal case against Beketov on defamation charges, he told independent newsweekly The New Times earlier this year. The case remains unresolved. He also said that local authorities had harassed public distributors and seized print runs of his newspaper, and that local businesses were warned not to place ads in Khimkinskaya Pravda. He told the paper that in May 2007 unidentified men set his car on fire.