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General Rapporteur on media freedom condemns police brutality and judicial abuses against journalists in Russia

Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on media freedom and the protection of journalists, has today strongly condemned police brutality and judicial abuses against journalists reporting peaceful demonstrations in more than 30 cities of the Russian Federation.

“According to several international media watchdogs, such as Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists or Human Rights Watch, dozens of journalists were arrested and detained, often violently, while covering demonstrations all over Russia in support of detained Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny for the second weekend running on 31 January,” said Mr Schennach.

“The Russian Union of Journalists recorded at least 58 journalists who were detained, obstructed or beaten by police while covering the protests in support of Mr Navalny. In Moscow, police beat several journalists on their heads and hands and stomped on them despite their clearly visible press jackets and badges. There have been more than 20 cases of intimidation of journalists, including ‘warning’ visits by police to their homes. A number of journalists were convicted of illegally organising or participation in a protest, facing significant fines, compulsory labour or several days in prison,” added the rapporteur.

“I call on the Russian authorities to urgently stop these unacceptable actions. They should allow journalists to cover protests freely and without fear, and refrain from attacking or detaining members of the press. The police officers responsible for the violence and those who told them to arrest journalists, who were just doing their job, must be punished for committing these flagrant violations of the Russian constitution and international treaties signed by the Russian Federation, including the European Convention on Human Rights,” concluded the rapporteur.