Statement by Media Rights Centre and Glasnost Defence Foundation on attack on Ekaterinburg journalist Dmitry Polyanin

posted 2 May 2018, 12:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 May 2018, 13:02 ]
14 April 2018

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Mass Media Rights Centre]

Photo of Dmitry Polyanin, editor of Oblastnaya gazeta: Mass Media Rights Centre

Statement by the Media Rights Centre and Glasnost Defence Foundation

On the evening on 12 April in Ekaterinburg, unknown assailants attacked the editor-in-chief of the regional Oblastnaya gazeta newspaper, Dmitry Polyanin. He was waylaid at the entrance to his block of flats, attacked from behind and beaten with an iron bar.

Dmitry's colleagues are convinced that the attack is linked to his professional activities: Oblastnaya Gazeta has regularly published investigations into the “Housing Wars” in Ekaterinburg.

For a long time we have known Dmitry well as a professional with many years of experience and, at one time, head of the Sverdlovsk regional branch of the Russian Union of Journalists. We will certainly contact each of the law enforcement bodies in the region individually so that the investigation into the attack does not come to a standstill, as regularly happens with crimes against journalists.

We are issuing this statement now in an atmosphere of increasing incidents of violence against journalists and an established climate of impunity. Thank goodness we already know that Dmitry's injuries are not life-threatening, but this does not mean that we can relax and forget about the incident.

Once again, attacks on journalists in Russia have become very frequent. As in the 1990s, crowbars, iron bars and knuckle-dusters have replaced arguments in controversies involving the mass media. According to statistics in the database on media conflicts in Russia maintained by the Glasnost Defence Foundation, in the last five years there have been more than 50 attacks a year on journalists in this country.

We are convinced that this is the result of an atmosphere of impunity for criminals. In Russia, law enforcement agencies have still not learnt how to investigate attacks on journalists perpetrated because of their professional activities. Prosecutions with respect to attacks on, or even the murder of, people who work in the media very really come to court. Usually, the cases are closed at the investigative stage. Sometimes, formal investigations are not even begun, especially in cases where journalists have been prevented from carrying out their lawful professional activities. Only in very few cases are the perpetrators of crimes identified and convicted, while those who ordered the crimes are virtually never caught. This contributes to prompting more attacks on journalists.

Hundreds of criminal investigations which have been closed, unsolved crimes against journalists, the inaction and indifference of law enforcement agencies – all these factors encourage new attacks on and murders of journalists. This is becoming a major concern for the journalistic community, both in Russia and beyond. We sincerely hope that the case of the attack on Dmitry Polyanin will not become just another unsolved crime. At any rate, we, his friends and colleagues, will do all we can to prevent that happening.

Galina Arapova, director of the Media Rights Centre

Aleksei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group 

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts