Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Attacks on Journalists, Militia Violence Against Population Mapped Across Russia

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 24 – Attacks on journalists in Russia and militia violence against Russian citizens inevitably attract more attention when they take place in Moscow or another central Russian city, but these disturbing phenomena are increasingly spreading across the entire country, as two new reports make clear.
At the request of “New Times,” analysts at the Glasnost Defense Foundation, who have been monitoring attacks on journalists in Russia for ten years provided the Moscow weekly with “a detailed analysis of attacks” over the last five years, one that shows where the attacks have been and what have been the outcomes (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/25778).
During that period, there have been attacks on journalists in 78 of the 83 federal subjects. Only Smolensk, Tambov and Magadan oblasts and the Nenets and Chukotka autonomous districts have had none, the foundation reports. Moreover, in 66 of the regions during the last five years, journalists have been killed or maimed or both.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Moscow, St. Petersburg and the North Caucasus have been the leaders in this category of crimes. Over the last five years, seven journalists have been killed and 94 maimed in the Russian capital and its surrounding oblast; in St. Petersburg, the totals are two killed and 20 maimed; and in Daghestan alone, six journalists have been killed.
Moreover, the Glasnost Defense Foundation reports, “in 61 regions, criminal cases have been opened against journalists,” with the capital again leading. Moreover, in 55 federal districts journalists have been detailed, “besides the two capitals” which lead in this respect too with 148 cases in Moscow and 71 in St. Petersburg and its environs.
Lastly, the foundation says, over the past five years, censorship has occurred in 43 regions, with Moscow leading, but with places like the Komi Republic, Perm kray and Murmansk oblast also being the site of efforts at official censorship of the work of journalists, in addition, of course, to the much wider practice of self-censorship.
Meanwhile, the Russian business news site, Slon.ru, continues to update its map of crimes by militiamen against the Russian population, an interactive map that also shows the appearance of such crimes not only in Moscow but also across the country, with “about 800” such “incidents” in the first seven months of 2010 alone (slon.ru/articles/440644/).
Both these trends and the increasing use of what he says are “the gangster methods of the struggle” by the powers that be against the opposition have prompted Lev Ponomaryev, the head of the For Human Rights organization to issue an appeal calling for resistance to such “fascist” trends in Russia (www.zaprava.ru/content/view/2454/1/).
Ponomaryev details actions by the OMON and other Russian officials against protesters over the last few days that are illegal according to the country’s existing legal code, including detentions without protocols, detentions of those not directly involved in protests, and bans on protests where they are allowed.
“All these actions of the powers that be,” he says, “point to a shift even in Moscow toward fascist methods of struggle with the opposition, to the dropping of any conventions and ‘legal’ decorations. Under these conditions,” he says, “Russia’s civil society must consolidate for the struggle with fascist trends and for the observation of the most elementary rights.”
“Only in this way,” according to the longtime human rights activist who himself has been the victim of official abuses both in the past and during this week as well, “will it be possible to stop a bloody civil conflict which the powers that be [in the Russian Federation] are themselves provoking.”

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