Sunday, November 21, 2010

Disabled Russian journalist appears at Moscow rally protesting lack of attention to anti-media attacks

From the AFP:

MOSCOW — The brain-damaged and wheelchair-bound Russian reporter Mikhail Beketov (pictured) made an unprecedented appearance Nov. 21 at a Moscow rally demanding Kremlin answers to a spate of recent anti-media attacks.

The sanctioned Moscow rally saw some 150 demonstrators hold up signs reading "We have had enough fabricated criminal investigations" against reporters and "A corrupt investigator equals one hundred broken lives."

The signs reflected a sense among human rights advocates that Russia was doing more to prosecute opposition reporters than it was the people who were investigating the often-brutal beatings.

Beketov, 52, was the editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda weekly published in the district of Khimki outside Moscow when he came under attack in 2008 in a beating that left him brain-damaged and unable to speak.

He has since undergone eight operations that deprived him him of his lower leg and four fingers, and he continues to live under doctor's supervision in a clinic.

Beketov had been following controversial plans to build a highway through the forest in Khimki, an issue also covered by prominent reporter Oleg Kashin, who was brutally beaten in a November attack that was caught on security camera.

The horrific footage appeared on state television and drew an outraged reaction from both the Russian media and Western governments.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev responded to the outcry be vowing to catch Kashin's assailants and doing more to protect reporters who write on sensitive issues.

But none of the culprits in these and other incidents have been found, with a Russian court actually convicting Beketov of slandering the Khimki mayor by voicing his allegations in a television interview.

Beketov, who was provisionally sentenced to pay small fine and released, appeared at the Pushkin Square rally bound in a heavy blue parka and a blanket.

But his presence added urgency to the latest of what has become a series of such small Moscow opposition gatherings, with one person shouting through a loud-speaker that "these crimes will definitely continue" until Beketov's and the others' assailants are found.