Russian Federation: Journalists and activists beaten up – call for quick investigation

by Michelle Trimborn

In the Ingushetia region in Russia, a group of journalists and human rights activists got beaten up by unknown attackers. The risk that the incident, which also involved arson, will not be followed up on by authorities seems high, as often such cases are not properly investigated.

On 9 March 2016, the group, travelling in a minivan, was stopped by probably 15 to 20 persons. They forced the journalists to leave their bus which was set on fire and burnt out, destroying both personal belongings and recording equipment. Some of the journalists were beaten up, suffering severe injuries.

The group consisted of six journalists and two human rights activists from the Russian NGO “Committee on the Prevention of Torture”. Together they visited the region to document human rights violations.

The background of the attack yet remains unclear. However, as the journalists were dealing with the delicate issue of human rights violations, it seems like the attack was supposed to stop their investigations. As the incident occurred in the border region between Ingushetia and Chechnya, there occurs a risk that investigations will be difficult or taken out slowly.

Regardless the background of the attacks, several media freedom activists issued statements to stress the importance of investigations of attacks against journalists.

Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, said:

I call upon the authorities of the Russian Federation to swiftly investigate this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice. There must be no impunity for violence against journalists.

Also the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, condemned the attack: “I urge both the Russian federal authorities and those in Ingushetia to heed the recommendations made by international organisations and by the Russian Human Rights Council which request resolute action in order to shed full light on these violent attacks and quickly bring those responsible to justice.”