Russia is an especially challenging and frightening atmosphere in which journalists work. In April, Elena Milashina, a prolific journalist for the opposition publication Novaya Gazeta, was brutally beaten on her way to her apartment. Her work often focused on exposing the operations of the Russian government in the Caucasus. She took over the reins of Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in 2006 in the wake of expose work she had published on the government.
Just a few months before Milashina was attacked, the young and vibrant journalist for the Kommersant newspaper, Oleg Kashin, was brutally beaten and left in a coma by two masked men. He survived the attack but was left with bruised and beaten hands and face.
Now another journalist has joined the ranks of reporters who have been attacked in or near their homes. Sergei Aslanyan, a radio journalist for Mayak radio, was mercilessly stabbed outside his southern Moscow home on Tuesday, the Moscow Times reports.
Although Aslanyan was stabbed in the neck, chest and arm by the attacker, he retained enough consciousness to relay the incident to police forces when they arrived on the scene. He stated that he went to answer the door after the doorbell rang and was quickly attacked by a solitary, masked man who proceeded to stab him.
He was rushed to the hospital after the incident and underwent surgery immediately, Ifex reports. He was listed in stable condition as of early Tuesday, a positive sign.
The attack on this particular journalist is surprising. Elena Milashina, Anna Politkovskaya and Oleg Kashin were all doing work that focused on critiquing the government and uncovering corrupt systems. Aslanyan, on the other hand, was an automobile journalist who relayed facts about the topic on his radio shows.
Some reports have speculated that Aslanyan was attacked after he told a version of the prophet Muhammed’s life story in which he described the religious leader as a businessman. The Los Angeles Times reports that a senior imam in a central Moscow mosque expressed frustration at Aslanyan’s ignorance of religious teachings.
Many human rights groups fear that Aslanyan’s case will remain unsolved, like that of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Oleg Kashin’s attack has also remained unsolved. In this environment of fear, in which Putin is attempting to summarily shut down open protest by bloating the fines for demonstrating against the government to more than $32,000, the work of opposition journalists is an essential service that needs to continue more than ever.
The country has been in a constant state of unrest since the March elections which brought Putin back to the presidential seat. Street protests and marches have continued throughout the months in response to an increasingly repressive government. Journalists remain an easy target for conservative forces in the Russian context. While they attempt to serve justice to the people they write about, there are very few voices out there that are willing to demand justice for the journalists who are so regularly attacked.
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