Russian TV crew threatened, forced to leave Ingushetia

New York, October 15, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns threats and an attack on a TV crew from the Moscow-based independent broadcaster REN-TV in the North Caucasian republic of Ingushetia that caused them to flee the region.

REN-TV journalist Leonid Kanfer and cameraman Victor Muzalevsky were threatened and their driver was beaten on Wednesday, the Moscow-based independent daily Moskovsky Komsomolets reported. Marianna Maksimovskasya, REN-TV’s deputy editor, told the independent news agency Interfax that Rustambek Zyazikov, the brother and head bodyguard of former Ingushetia President Murat Zyazikov, personally threatened her colleagues, the independent news Web site Lenta reported.


REN-TV’s crew had gone to Ingushetia to cover anti-corruption policies implemented by the regional government and filmed property allegedly belonging to the Zyazikov family, Maksimovskaya told Interfax. Ingushetia’s authorities have opened a criminal case into the incident, Interfax said.

“We are appalled that Leonid Kanfer and Victor Muzalevsky were driven out of Ingushetia under threat,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “They were attempting to cover corruption, a subject of intense public interest. Regional authorities must bring those responsible for this attack to justice.”

According to news reports, an unidentified caller told Kanfer on Wednesday that they will “finish off” the journalists if they aired their tapes on TV. They later learned that the threats had come from a phone that belonged to Rustambek Zyazikov, the independent news Web site reported.

A few hours later, men in traffic police uniforms showed up at the crew’s hotel in Nazran. A hotel employee who witnessed the scene told independent news Web site the uniformed men punched the driver in the face and abdomen. According to news reports, regional authorities and opposition leaders helped the journalists escape their assailants and escorted them to the airport.

Journalists have long been harassed and intimidated in Ingushetia, CPJ research shows. In November 2007, 15 armed men abducted and beat REN-TV crew members in Nazran. Three months later, Ingushetia police beat and deported several journalists with the Moscow-based radio station Ekho Moskvy, the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and the St. Petersburg-based independent television Channel 5. Nobody has been charged in those attacks.

Russian authorities have yet to bring to justice the murderer of Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of the independent news Web site who was shot dead in police custody in August 2008. Yevloyev had heavily criticized regional authorities and called on President Zyazikov to resign. Regional authorities immediately declared the case a negligent homicide, allowing his killer to walk free. The case has been shuffled among several Ingush courts since 2008.