Russian authorities should allow journalists to freely cover protests and must investigate the alleged assault by police of Timur Hadjibekov and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
A group of at least five police officers assaulted and then arrested Hadjibekov, a freelance photojournalist, and arrested Oleg Nasonov, a reporter with St. Petersburg-based online news outlet Dva Stula, while they were covering a May Day march in St. Petersburg, according to Hadjibekov, who spoke with CPJ from the hospital, and local media reports.
Police officers approached Hadjibekov and Nasonov, who were near the demonstrations which included several political parties and activists shouting anti-Putin slogans; Hadjibekov identified himself as a journalist, and police then punched him in his ribs and head and arrested him, he told CPJ.
Local media reported that both Hadjibekov and Nasonov were arrested; Hadjibekov told CPJ he did not see how police treated Nasonov. CPJ tried to reach Nasonov through his Twitter account, but did not receive a response.
“Police attacking journalists covering a demonstration is completely unacceptable,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said from New York. “Russian authorities should immediately investigate the alleged assault of Timur Hadjibekov at today’s march and ensure that journalists can cover protests freely and safely.”
Hadjibekov said that the officers took him to a police station without giving any reason for his arrest, and held him there for about two hours. He was then taken to a hospital to receive treatment for his injuries, he told CPJ.
Hadjibekov said he intends to file an official complaint against the St. Petersburg police.
According to OVD-info, a website that documents political persecution in Russia, police released Nasonov as well.
The St. Petersburg police press office did not immediately respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment.