“Political terror” continues against journalists in Russia


A rally was held in the Moscow region town of Khimki on Saturday in support of journalist Mikhail Beketov who was brutally beaten up on 13 November. Around 200 people attended, carrying placards reading “The attack on Beketov is an attack on freedom of speech” and “The assault of Beketov is political terror”. The meeting had been planned in the town centre, however the local authorities did not allow this, and it had to be held on the outskirts.

Mikhail Beketov, owner and Chief Editor of the newspaper “Khimkinskaya Pravda”, is well-known as principled, hard-hitting and consistent.

For these qualities journalists in Russia today pay a terribly high price.

As reported here, Mikhail Beketov was attacked on 13 November. He was found by neighbours badly beaten, covered in blood and barely alive.  He had serious injuries to the skull and numerous fractures and injuries. He only came out of a coma two days ago, however the doctors had to amputate one leg, and he will be crippled for the rest of his life.

Mikhail Beketov wrote about corruption among Khimki officials and spoke out against the felling of the Khimki Forest in order to build an arterial road from Moscow to St Petersburg.

“The attack on Beketov was a terrible shock for me. I fear that it will not be the last such act. It has shown that journalists, lawyers and opposition politicians who criticize the authorities are in danger in Russia”, Svetlana Gannushkina, human rights defender (Civic Assistance Committee and Memorial) told Radio Svoboda.

Beketov’s colleagues are convinced that the attack on the journalist, known for his critical articles about the local authorities, was due to his professional activities.

The organization of environmentalists “Ecoborona” has addressed an open letter to President Medvedev over the brutal attack. It asks him to take the investigation into the case under his personal control. Observers think it unlikely that a response will be forthcoming.

Murders and attacks on “disobedient” journalists have become common in the Russia of Putin and Medvedev.  Court verdicts in such cases are extremely rare.

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