Independent editor brutally beaten in Russia

New York, April 27, 2010—Regional prosecutors should immediately investigate the brutal attack on Monday on Arkady Lander, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Mestnaya (Local) in the southern city of Sochi, and bring his assailants to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Two unidentified men attacked Lander at his apartment as he returned from a grocery store at around 3 p.m. on Monday, the independent Caucasus region news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel reported. Lander, who was conscious after the attack, told Kavkazsky Uzel that the assailants—whom neighbors had reportedly seen in the building in the days before the attack—hit him repeatedly on the head with metal rods.

The attackers did not rob Lander and fled the premises, Kavkazsky Uzel said. The editor was hospitalized with a broken skull and a concussion, the Russian service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

“Investigating authorities in Sochi must carry out a swift, thorough, and effective probe into the savage attack on Arkady Lander,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova. “Witnesses and the editor himself can identity the attackers. We call on the officials responsible to prevent impunity from prevailing in yet another case of a physical attack on a Russian journalist.”

Lander, 62, told Kavkazsky Uzel after the incident that he believes it is related to his journalism. Mestnaya started publishing in January with a circulation of 50,000 and is distributed in Sochi free of charge, he said in a March interview for Kavkazsky Uzel. The newspaper covered Sochi’s March 14 municipal elections from a pro-opposition angle.

Witnesses told Kavkazsky Uzel they discovered that the doors to the apartments next to the editor’s had been blocked from outside with wooden sticks to prevent residents from coming out to help Lander.