Russia urged to better protect media freedom

Europe’s rights and security watchdog urged Russia on Friday to protect journalists covering post-election protests from “police harassment” after it said two dozen reporters were detained during demonstrations this week.

“The duty of the police is to protect journalists, not harass and detain them,” Dunja Mijatovic, media freedom chief of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said.

Russia is one of the Vienna-based body’s 56 member states.

Alleging fraud in Russia’s December 4 parliamentary election, thousands turned out on Monday for the largest opposition protest in Moscow in years, demanding fair elections and an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Putin has accused the United States of stirring up protests and said foreign countries were spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence Russian elections.

Media freedom
In a statement, Mijatovic said police had apprehended about two dozens reporters covering demonstrations in Moscow and St Petersburg between December 5 to 7.

“The Russian authorities should investigate all these incidents and ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly prosecuted,” her statement said.

Most of the journalists were freed after a few hours but at least two of them were charged with refusing to comply with the lawful demands of police officers, Mijatovic said.

“We are ready to support and assist Russian authorities in ensuring full implementation of their OSCE media freedom commitments,” she said.

The OSCE’s vote monitoring arm, the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), has criticised the conduct of last weekend’s election as unfairly slanted in favour of Putin’s ruling party.—Reuters

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