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Russia17 April 2007

Journalists beaten and arrested when police disperse opposition marches

Reporters Without Borders condemns the use of excessive force by police during last weekend’s demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “The arrests and use of violence, in which journalists were among the victims, are unacceptable,” the organisation said. “We call on the authorities to apologise to the media concerned, and to identify and punish those responsible for these press freedom violations.”

Organised by The Other Russia movement and banned by the authorities, the demonstrations on 14 and 15 April led to clashes between police and opponents of President Vladimir Putin, and more than 400 arrests. Two of The Other Russia’s leaders, Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov, were held for several hours in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Some ten journalists were among the hundreds of people who were clubbed, kicked or manhandled when the broke up the demonstrations. Several German journalists with the public TV stations ARD and ZDF were beaten and arrested. A Japanese newspaper’s photographer was also beaten and the Reuters correspondent was roughed up. Journalists working for local media including Kommersant, Novaya Gazeta and Vedomosti were also the victims of violence. Other journalists were arrested during the demonstration. All had official accreditation.

The Civil Chamber of Russia (Economic and Social Council) condemned the “cruelty and violence of the security forces towards journalists doing their professional duty.” The chamber’s commission called on the interior ministry to “urgently examine the dangerous tendency to use force against journalists.”

Journalists were also arrested during The Other Russia rallies on 3 March in St. Petersburg and on 24 March in Nizhniy Novgorod. The demonstrations are being held a time of growing political tension, eight months before legislative elections and less than a year before a presidential election.

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