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Russia24 May 2005

Murder attempt against head of press group

Reporters Without Borders condemned systematic violence against the press and urged the authorities to act after a murder attempt was made against the head of a press group in Samara, south of the country. Dmitri Surianinov, head of Media-Samara (six dailies, one magazine, three TV stations and a distribution network) was brutally beaten by three men wielding baseball bats at 1am on 21 May.

"This brutal assault demonstrates yet again the extremely difficult conditions in which Russian journalists work, particularly in the provinces," the worldwide press freedom organisation said."Collusion between political and economic forces in the Russian regions contributes to a climate of total impunity and it is unacceptable that the systematic use of violence forces journalists into self-censorship. It is time that Russian political leaders took adequate steps to better protect journalists and to find and punish their assailants."

(JPEG) Surianinov (photo), who was attacked in the street near his home, said that the murder attempt was linked to his professional work. He had a large sum of money on him at the time which was ignored by his attackers. He was taken to the neuro-surgical unit of Samara’s Pirogov Hospital with concussion and multiple contusions. The prosecutor’s office opened an investigation for "attempted murder".

The journalist had received threats after the publication of a series of articles in the weekly Samarskoe Obosrenie and the daily Postscriptum (belonging to the Media-Samara group), particularly revealing the activities of the automobile industry group SOK. Several of his neighbours had told him that unidentified men had turned up at his apartment block several times at the end of April, asking for information about his working hours."After publishing a photo of Yuri Kachmazov, on the front page of Samarskoe Obosrenie, with the caption ’a multimillionaire’s statement’, I also received threats from people I cannot name," he said. "I was advised to employ a bodyguard but I didn’t think it had got to that point", said Surianinov.

Two editors of the local weekly Toliattinskoie Obosrenie were murdered successively in Toliatti in the Samara region because they were investigating cases of corruption and organised crime. Valery Ivanov was riddled with bullets in front of his home, on 29 April 2002. His successor, Alexei Sidorov was stabbed to death by two men on 9 October 2003.

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