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Russia17 July 2006

Authorities free two German students who work for university radio

Reporters Without Borders voiced relief today at the news that Eike Korfhage and Henning Wallerius, two German students who went St. Petersburg to cover the Group of Eight summit for a German university radio station, Hertz 97.8, were freed on the afternoon of 15 July although the authorities had ordered them held for 10 days.

After being detained on the night of 9 July as anti-G8 protests were taking place in St. Petersburg, Korfhage and Wallerius were accused by the police of urinating in public.

13 July 2006

Call for release of two young German students arrested over anti-G8 protests

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern at police violence today in Moscow against a German journalist who was covering protests against this weekend’s G8 summit St. Petersburg, and the detention of two other German journalists in St. Petersburg since the night of 9 July.

Boris Reitschuster, the correspondent of the German magazine Focus, was attacked by police today as he was taking photos of anti-G8 protesters who were themselves the victim of police violence. Reitschuster’s mobile phone was briefly confiscated by the police during the incident.

Eike Korfhage and Henning Wallerius, two students working as journalists for Hertz 97,8, a university radio station, were arrested at their home on the night of 9 July by the St. Petersburg police, who accused them of participating in an anti-G8 protest and taking photos. They were subsequently sentenced to 10 days in detention for “urinating in public,” a charge they deny. German embassy representatives have been able to visit them and said their prison conditions are acceptable.

“Violence against journalists who have gone to Russia to cover the G8 summit is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are astounded by the 10-day prison sentence passed on two German students working for a university radio station. We condemn these acts of repression and call on the Russian authorities to free them at once.”

This heavy-handed police behaviour did not bode well for the G8 summit, the organisation warned.

“We could like to remind the foreign leaders taking part in the summit that press freedom is in steady retreat in Russia,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Many broadcast media and newspapers have been placed under Kremlin control since Vladimir Putin took over as president. The press is gagged and the independent media are just a shadow of what they were and virtually non-existent in some regions. Self-censorship is widely practised and the authorities are now cracking down on the Internet.”

Russia is also unable to ensure the safety of journalists, Reporters Without Borders said. Thirteen have been killed since 2000 without those responsible for their deaths ever being identified. The murder of Paul Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian edition of the US magazine Forbes, on 9 July 2004 in Moscow remains unpunished. The disappearance of Agence France-Presse correspondent Ali Astamirov following his kidnapping on 4 July 2003 in Ingushetia has never been solved. Russia’s leaders, above all Putin himself, have been shown any sign of taking a strong interest in these cases.

“Instead of adopting firm measures to protect journalists and promote the independence of the press, the Russian parliament is now considering a very disturbing bill, one that refers to the defamation of a government representative in the media or on the Internet as ‘extremism’,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“The bill is clearly aimed at preventing any criticism of official decisions taken in the course of the fight against terrorism,” the organisation added.

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