Investigative journalist brutally beaten in Russia

New York, April 5, 2012–Russian authorities must immediately investigate the attack on journalist Elena Milashina and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. Milashina is a special correspondent for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta as well as a contributor to CPJ.

Two men attacked Milashina and her friend, Freedom House representative Ella Asoyan, as they headed to the journalist’s home in the Moscow suburb of Balashikha at around 12:30 a.m. this morning, Milashina wrote in a Facebook post. The attackers primarily targeted the journalist, repeatedly hitting her on the head, and stopped only when passersby intervened, the post said. The assailants took Milashina’s money and stole Asoyan’s laptop, and the journalist was later examined and diagnosed with a concussion, extensive bruising, and a broken tooth, Novaya Gazeta Managing Editor Sergei Sokolov told CPJ.

Milashina works as an investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta and frequently covers human rights violations, particularly in the dangerous North Caucasus region, as well as attacks and murders of local journalists. She has also contributed to CPJ, including a report on the lack of justice in the attack on Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin and the murder of her mentor at Novaya Gazeta, Anna Politkovskaya.

“Russian authorities must investigate whether Elena Milashina was targeted because she investigated sensitive subjects, including human rights violations in the North Caucusus and the murder of her Novaya Gazeta colleagues,” CPJ Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Both Milashina’s work and the brutality of this attack point to the possibility that this was not a simple robbery. We call on authorities to do everything in their power to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Milashina and Asoyan waited an hour for the police to arrive at the scene, but finally left and went to the journalist’s home, Novaya Gazeta reported. Milashina told the newspaper that she views the robbery with suspicion. “My friend was carrying two bags,” she said. “One contained her laptop computer, the other one–money and personal papers. At first, they grabbed the bag containing her money, but she somehow was able to take it back. They did not even attempt to seize it again.”

“It is appalling that police did not promptly respond to Milashina and Asoyan’s call for help,” Ognianova said. “We urge authorities to investigate the delayed police response and take appropriate steps.”