November 12, 2010

Mr. Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: +7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408
Mr. Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka 1 a GSP e
Moscow 12599 3
Fax +7 095 292 88 48

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding the violent attacks on journalists Oleg Kashin and Anatoliy Adamchuk, and regarding the verdict against journalist Mikhail Beketov, who was also savagely attacked two years ago.

According to our information, on November 6, 2010, Oleg Kashin, reporter for the Kommersant newspaper, was attacked by unknown assailants outside his home in Moscow. During the attack, which was captured on a nearby security camera, Kashin was hit up to 50 times with an iron bar and suffered a broken skull, jaw, fingers, and leg. He is currently in a medically-induced coma due to the severity of the beating. None of his belongings were taken. The 30-year-old journalist had been reporting on the controversial highway project in the Khimki Forest, and had received death threats from a pro-Kremlin youth group prior to the attack. Russia’s Investigative Committee says that Kashin’s journalism was among the leading motives for the attack.

Two days later, on November 8, 2010, Anatoliy Adamchuk, reporter for the Zhukovskiye Vesti weekly, was attacked outside his newspaper’s office in Zhukovsky. The assailants, whose identities remain unknown, approached Adamchuk from behind, knocked him to the ground, and repeatedly struck and kicked him. He sustained a concussion and head injuries, and was hospitalized following the assault. Adamchuk had also covered protests against the highway that was to be built in Khimki and it is believed that the attack is related to his reporting.
On November 10, 2010, Mikhail Beketov, journalist and former editor of the independent Khimkinskaya Pravda newspaper, was convicted of criminally slandering the Khimki Mayor, Vladimir Strelchenko, and ordered to pay him 5,000 rubles (U.S.$160) in damages. Beketov’s lawyer plans to file an appeal. The first trial took place on October 12, 2010. Beketov had reported on and campaigned against the same highway project as both Kashin and Adamchuk, and was fiercely critical of Strelchenko, who initiated and sponsored the project. The criminal defamation charges relate more specifically to Beketov’s accusation that Strelchenko was behind a 2007 attack on the journalist’s property, in which Beketov’s car was set on fire and his dog killed.

In November 2008, Beketov was attacked and savagely beaten, leaving him with a broken skull and legs, and smashed fingers on both hands. He spent three weeks in a coma and had seven surgeries following the attack, including leg and finger amputations. Beketov is now severely disabled. The 51-year-old journalist must now relearn how to speak as a result of sustained damage to his throat. The investigation into the attack was suspended for lack of suspects and Beketov continues to receive death threats via telephone.

PEN American Center is deeply concerned about the attacks on journalists Oleg Kashin and Anatoliy Adamchuk, and the conviction of Mikhail Beketov. We believe these journalists are being targeted solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression through their critical reporting as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a signatory. Russian journalists work in an increasingly hostile environment, and live under constant threat of violence and legal harassment. Furthermore, investigations into attacks and murders of journalists are often superficial and frequently stagnate. We therefore call for a thorough investigation into the attacks on Kashin, Adamchuk and Beketov, as well as for the court to immediately and unconditionally overturn the defamation verdict against Beketov, as part of an overall condemnation of all attacks on the independent press and human rights monitors.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee               
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak
Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United States
2650 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735

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