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Russia1 May 2009

Newspaper editor in coma after latest case of violence against journalists

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about newspaper editor Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, who is in a coma in an intensive care unit after being attacked and beaten outside his home in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don on 29 April.

“The attack on Yaroshenko is the latest in a series of cases of violence against journalists in the past six months in Russia,” Reporters Without Borders said. “How many criminal acts of this kind will be necessary before the authorities wake up? President Dmitri Medvedev’s government should seize the opportunity of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May to ensure that such attacks do not go unpunished and thereby send a reassuring signal to local journalists and the international community.”

The editor-in-chief of the Corruption and Crime newspaper, Yaroshenko was attacked by unidentified assailants as he returned home from his office on the night of 29 April. He is still in a coma despite undergoing several operations. The police said they were investigating the assault.

In view of the kind of story Yaroshenko usually covered, Reporters Without Borders thinks the policed should not rule out any hypothesis, including the possibility that the attack was linked to his work.

The attack was widely condemned in Russia by such people as leading human rights activist and Soviet-era dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who said: “Not a week goes by without someone being targeted, whether a journalist, a lawyer, a human rights activist or an opposition politician.”

Sergey Protazanov, a reporter for Grajdanskoye Soglasye, a local newspaper based in the north Moscow suburb of Khimki, died at his home on 30 March, two days after being attacked and beaten. Lev Ponomariov, the head of the human rights NGO “For Human Rights,” was attacked by three men outside his Moscow home the following evening.

Yuri Grachev, the 72-year-old editor of the Moscow-area local newspaper Solnechnogorsky Forum and an outspoken critic of local officials, was beaten and left unconscious outside his home on 3 February.

Novaya Gazeta reporter Anastasia Baburova and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov were gunned down in a contract-style killing in central Moscow on 19 January.

Mikhail Beketov, the editor of the Khimki-based local newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, spent several weeks in a coma after being savagely beaten outside his home in November, at a time when he was investigating mayor Victor Strelchenko’s business activities and the reasons for his support for a motorway project that threatens a forest outside Khimki.

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