New York, March 20, 2009–Russian authorities should thoroughly investigate the March 12 beating of Maksim Zolotarev, an editor at the independent newspaper Molva Yuzhnoye Podmoskovye in the town of Serpukhov, Moscow Region, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Zolotarev told Radio Svoboda–the Russian Service of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty–that three unidentified men in hooded jackets first attacked him with pepper spray, then beat him with clubs when he was leaving his apartment building for work at around 12:30 p.m. He said the assailants fled the scene in their Mitsubishi sedan, parked in front of Zolotarev’s building. The journalist is now recovering at home from bruises on his left arm, spine, and thigh, Radio Svoboda reported.
Zolotarev said he considers the attack retaliation for the paper’s reporting on corruption. He told Radio Svoboda he is resigning from the paper as a result. “They tried to intimidate me and they’ve succeeded,” Zolotarev told the radio.
“We are alarmed by what has become systematic violence against regional journalists who work on sensitive subjects in Russia, and call on authorities to take all appropriate measures to sever the cycle of impunity,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator
Zolotarev’s lawyer, Igor Ogorodnikov, told Radio Svoboda that regional police have not yet opened an investigation. He said investigators are taking witnesses’ statements, but that he felt they were not taking Zolotarev’s statement seriously, Radio Svoboda reported. The lawyer said the police refused to open a requested probe or conduct a forensic medical exam.
This is the fourth in a series of recent attacks against journalists in the Moscow Region. In November, unidentified assailants beat nearly to death independent editor Mikhail Beketov, whose critical reporting put him at odds with the Khimki town administration. He is still hospitalized in serious condition in a Moscow clinic. In January, Anastasiya Baburova, a 25-year-old freelancer for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov were shot and killed in a broad daylight moments after the two left a press conference in downtown Moscow. Most recently, unidentified assailants attacked Yuri Grachev, editor of pro-opposition weekly Solnechnogorsky Forum, when the journalist was about to enter his apartment building in the city of Solnechnogorsk. Found unconscious by his neighbors, Grachev was hospitalized with a concussion, broken nose, and lacerated cheek. No arrests in these attacks have yet been reported.