New York, August 31, 2020 – Russian authorities must conduct a full and thorough investigation into the vandalizing of journalist David Frenkel’s car, and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Between the night of August 26 and the early hours of August 27, unidentified attackers slashed all four tires of Frenkel’s car and smashed two of its windows while the car was parked near the journalist’s apartment in St. Petersburg, according to news reports and Frenkel, a correspondent for the independent human rights news website Mediazona, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.
The journalist reported the damage to the police, and was told that authorities were investigating the matter, he told CPJ.
“Russian authorities must take the vandalism of journalist David Frenkel seriously, and ensure that the press cannot be intimidated,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Police should find the perpetrators and hold them to account; and officers must work to protect Frenkel, not to harass him or obstruct his work.”
On August 26, the Investigative Committee of St. Petersburg’s central district had formally informed Frenkel’s lawyer that authorities declined to open a criminal case into a police officer who attacked the journalist in June, Frenkel told CPJ.
On June 30, a police officer and an election observer from the ruling United Russia party attacked Frenkel and broke his arm at a polling station in central St. Petersburg, while the journalist was covering alleged voting irregularities, as CPJ documented at the time.
“The most likely version is that this [the vandalism] is payback for the story around the polling station and the broken arm,” Frenkel told CPJ. “I attracted too much attention to falsifications during the voting on Constitutional amendments. Someone among high-standing officials may have gotten upset.”
On July 27, in relation to the June 30 incident, the Dzerzhinsky district court of St. Petersburg fined Frenkel 2,500 rubles (US$33) for allegedly disobeying police, interfering with an election, and violating the COVID-19 lockdown, according to the journalist and news reports.
Frenkel said that anonymous internet users had written threatening messages in comments on stories about the polling station incident, including, “they have broken your arm, now they need to break your legs as well.”
CPJ emailed the Main Administration for Internal Affairs of the city of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region requesting comment on the vandalism, authorities’ case against Frenkel, and the journalist’s allegations that the vandalism was linked to his work, but did not receive any response.