Press freedom groups have urged Russian authorities to stop harassing journalists covering ongoing political protests in Moscow, which have seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets.
Eight organisations have signed an open letter claiming Russian police broke the noses of two journalists who were reporting on non-violent demonstrations in the Russian capital on 27 July.
Russian authorities have barred some 30 local opposition candidates from running in municipal elections, claiming they have falsified the thousands of signatures needed to be eligible to run.
Three other journalists were beaten and injured by police, the groups claim, while at least fourteen reporters have been arrested or detained by police, according the Council of Europe’s journalist safety platform.
Signatories of the open letter, published yesterday, include the Russian Journalists’ and Media Workers’ Union, Reporters without Borders and Index on Censorship.
Index on Censorship’s Jessica Ni Mhainin said: “Russian authorities seem to be indifferent to the fact that, by targeting protesters and journalists with violence and detentions, they are in flagrant violation of their obligations under international human rights law.”
Nora Wehofsits, an advocacy officer at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom added: “The violent crackdown on journalists in Russia is a violation of the freedom of the press and freedom of information.
“Repressing coverage on protests in favour of fair elections and against police violence – and on the oppression of those – re-affirms the need of journalists as watchdogs. It must stop”.
Reporters without Borders ranked Russia as one of the worst countries in the world in its attitudes towards the media.
The non-profit group’s World Press Freedom Index ranked it 149 out of 180 countries. It said Russia had climate that was “very oppressive for those who question the new patriotic and neo-conservative discourse, or just try to maintain quality journalism”.
Russia is not the only country where journalists are being attacked while covering protests.
The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club expressed “grave concern” about a Global Times journalist attacked by protestors at Hong Kong International Airport on 13 August.
Picture: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov