Human Rights First Condemns Racist Attack on Russian Journalist
New York, N.Y.—Human Rights First calls on the Russian authorities to investigate the assault on the Kommersant journalist Elman Soltakhanov, who was attacked by a gang of 15 to 20 neo-Nazi youths in a park in north-east Moscow on May 25, 2011. The Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis reported that the perpetrators wore masks and shouted racist slogans while kicking him in the head, neck, and spine after knocking him to the ground. “The assault reveals the breadth of the problems faced by journalists who work in Russia. Unlike his well-known Kommersant colleague Oleg Kashin—who was nearly killed for investigative reporting last November—Mr. Soltakhanov became a victim of violence not because of his work, but simply due to his ethnicity,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. “The police must be vigilant in identifying the perpetrators of racist violence.” In addition to being the targets of contract-style killings and attacks, several Russian journalists had been attacked by affiliates of ultranationalist groups and movements. Aidar Buribayev, an ethnic Kazakh and a reporter for Newsweek, was attacked on a subway train in 2007 by four youths who questioned his presence in Russia. In January 2009, Anastasia Baburova, a reporter for Novaya Gazeta, was gunned down in downtown Moscow alongside the lawyer Stanislav Markelov; their murderers had deep ties to the neo-Nazi movement and were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms earlier this month. “Despite some improvements in state response to racist and bias-motivated violence in Russia and the recent sentencing of several high-profile violent nationalists, hate crimes remain a significant problem. Political leaders need to speak out against such attacks, sending signals that they won’t be tolerated. The government must also take steps to improve hate crime legislation, separating violent and nonviolent offenses; to train police and prosecutors who deal with such incidents; and to reach out and work with communities affected by racist and bias-motivated violence,” added LeGendre.