VIENNA, 10 May 2012 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, expressed concern today over the indiscriminate detention of journalists reporting on street protests in Moscow and recent cyber attacks on Russian media websites.
“The role of the police is not to detain and harass journalists, but to help them perform their professional duties. What happened in recent days must be thoroughly investigated and sanctions taken against those law enforcement officers who violated the rights of journalists to collect and disseminate information,” Mijatović said.
Media reports and blogs indicate that riot police harassed and detained dozens of reporters who were covering street gatherings in Moscow from 6 to 9 May.
Among those detained were Aleksandr Chernykh (Kommersant daily newspaper), Aleksei Saveleyev (lenta.ru online news agency), Tikhon Dzyadko (Ekho Moskvy radio station), Alevtina Yelsukova (Bolshoi gorod weekly newspaper), Sergei Minenko (Moskovskie novosti daily newspaper), Roman Osharov (Voice of America radio station), Timur Olevsky (Dozhd’ television channel) and Oleg Salmanov (Vedomosti daily newspaper). All journalists were eventually released.
At least four journalists – Ivan Kolpakov (lenta.ru), Vadim Kantor (Moskovskie novosti), Dmitry Zykov and Yevgeniya Mikheyeva (grani.ru online newspaper) were injured by the police.
“All law enforcement agencies must respect the rights of the media to freely do their work. Their freedom to report is the backbone of the public’s right to be informed,” Mijatović said.
“Authorities must also investigate cyber attacks on mass media websites during the protests. These attacks obstruct lawful, professional activity of journalists and must be investigated by the law enforcement agencies as a criminal act. Such attacks on websites are also a threat to cyber security, which today is one of the vital conditions for freedom of the media.”
On 6 May, the websites of Kommersant, Ekho Moskvy, Bolshoi gorod, Dozhd’ and that of the slon.ru online portal were made temporarily unavailable by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Some of them were planning to broadcast live from the scene of the protests.