Top Russian journalist in coma after assault

2010-11-06 11:25

Moscow – A leading Russian journalist was in a coma after a severe beating that was probably linked to his work, which included coverage of opposition protests, his editor said today.

It was the latest in a series of assaults on journalists in the country. Russia is on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Index, a listing of states where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes.

Police opened a criminal case for attempted murder after Oleg Kashin, a political journalist with the Kommersant daily, was beaten overnight near his home, said the prosecutor-general’s investigative committee.

Doctors induced a coma after Kashin was admitted to hospital with two broken legs, a damaged skull and a jaw fractured in two places, Kommersant reported on its website. It cited witnesses as saying he was attacked by two men near his Moscow apartment.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the prosecutor-general and interior minister to “take special control of the investigation”, said a Kremlin spokesperson.

“This shows there are people in our society willing to resort to crime to shut the mouths of journalists,” the head of Russia’s journalists’ union, Mikhail Fedotov, told the Ekho Mosvky radio station.

Kommersant editor Mikhail Mikhailin cited the fact that the assailants did not take Kashin’s wallet or telephone as evidence that his work must have had something to do with the attack, Interfax news agency reported.

Kashin reported on Russian politics, including opposition rallies, but it was unclear which of his stories might have sparked the attack.

Kommersant, which offers mild criticism of the authorities, is Russia’s most respected general news daily.

Journalist rights groups have criticised the Russian authorities for failing to solve a number of high-profile murders of media workers, including the 2006 killing of Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says there have been 19 unsolved murders of journalists in Russia since 2000.

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