On 28 May late night an unidentified man attacked Sergei Aslanian, a journalist for the state-owned broadcaster Radio Mayak, outside his apartment in Moscow, hitting him on the head with a heavy object and stabbing him multiple times in the chest, neck, and hands.
Attacked after a phone call
According to Reporters Without Borders, on that evening Aslanian received a call at home from an unidentified caller who said he wanted to speak to him in the street outside. When Aslanian reached the landing, he was violently attacked. The journalist survived the attack and was able to call the police.
Aslanian was taken to Sklifosovski hospital where he underwent surgery. He was treated for concussion and at least 15 stab wounds. After the surgery the doctors said his condition was stable and satisfactory.
Assault can be connected to journalist’s comments
Aslanian worked for the radio station Ekho Moskvy for ten years. Since late last year, he has presented a program “Tsentralny Komitet” on Radio Mayak – a news and entertainment show focusing on motoring and transport issues.
Sergey Arkhipov, deputy director of Radio Mayak’s management company, visited Aslanian in hospital and told journalists that Aslanian’s assailant had said, “You don’t like Allah”, before attacking.
Aslanian himself said that the attack could be connected to a comment he had made on his show, which Russia’s Muslim community had found insulting of Prophet Muhammad and Islam.
On 14 May during his program he described Prophet Muhammad as a “businessman” whose business was so successful it continued to prosper today. He said the founder of Islam had “rewritten the Bible” and was believed to have suffered from “serious sexual problems”.
These remarks offended some members of the Muslim community, the representatives of which lodged a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office accusing the journalist of inciting hatred. Aslanian later publicly apologised for the comment.
Albir Krganov, the mufti of Moscow and central Russia, has condemned the violence against the reporter, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.
Journalist did not receive prior threats
Arkhipov told Gazeta that Aslanian did not report receiving any prior threats, and said that his colleagues hoped the attacker would be brought to justice.
Moscow police immediately launched an investigation into the incident. The case was treated first as assault and battery under the criminal code, but later was changed to “moderately serious premeditated personal injury”.
The police are studying CCTV footage from a nearby camera. Police said they were working on a number of theories, including the possibility that the attack was related to the journalist’s work.
Perpetrator has to be brought to justice
Reporters Without Borders hope that the investigation will lead to the identification of the perpetrator of this attack, and those who may be behind it, as soon as possible.
“Everything possible must be done to prevent this latest incident being added to the long list of attacks on media workers that have gone unpunished in Russia”, declared the organisation.
Impunity in attacks on the press remains high in Russia, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) research shows. Despite high-level promises of justice, including by former President Dmitry Medvedev, Russian investigators have failed to name and apprehend those responsible for vicious attacks on Mikhail Beketov of the independent newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, and Oleg Kashin, left, of the prominent business daily Kommersant. Many other attacks and murders of journalists remain unsolved, according to CPJ data.
The country remains stuck in 142nd place out of 179 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.