The IPI global network demands an end to violence against journalists in Russia’s North Caucasus region, following a recent attack in Ingushetia on journalists Lilian Rubtsova and Alena Sadovskaya. The attack took place after a violent assault in Chechnya earlier this year in which Novaya Gazeta correspondent Elena Milashina was seriously wounded.
According to Rubtsova, she and her colleague traveled to Nazran, the capital of the region of Ingushetia, as part of a report on members of the local Yandiyev family, who were accused of domestic violence, as well as of threatening to kill NGO worker Magomed Alamov, who had attempted to assist the violence victim.
On October 25, Rubtsova and Sadovskaya arrived at the home of the Yandiyev family in Nazran and attempted to ring at their door to ask about the case. As no one opened, the two journalists took photos of the building and began to leave. However, they were then assaulted by people whom they identified as members of the Yandiyev family.
“At the beginning, several cars arrived at the scene”, Rubtsova told IPI. “Then two women came out of the house, only once the men who arrived by car were already there. One of the women grabbed my head, pulled my hair, and said she could do whatever she wanted. When we tried to leave, she grabbed my hand, my back [and tried to stop me]. One of the Yandiyev family members grabbed my colleague’s phone, her press card, and did not return it.”
Rubtsova and Sadovskaya eventually managed to call a contact who was able to pick them up by car, but their vehicle was soon blocked by the people who had initially intercepted them near the Yandiyev household.
A police officer later arrived at the scene, who said that neighbors who had witnessed the situation had called the police. Rubtsova and Sadovskaya were taken to a nearby police station, from where they were released only several hours later. Rubtsova said that none of the assailants were charged following the incident.
“They [the Yandiyevs] are a very influential family [in Ingushetia]”, Rubtsova explained to IPI. “Police told us that we shouldn’t have tried [to report on their case].”
“Russian authorities must properly investigate attacks on journalists, including the recent assault on Lilian Rubtsova and Alena Sadovskaya as well as the July attack on Elena Milashina, and hold those responsible to account”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We condemn the recent violence against journalists working in Russia’s North Caucasus region and call on Russian federal and local authorities to ensure that journalists are able to report on sensitive issues of public concern freely and without fear of retaliation. Violence against journalists is never acceptable.”
In July, Milashina traveled to Chechnya together with human rights lawyer Alexander Nemov to monitor the trial of political prisoner Zarema Musayeva. Their car was ambushed as they entered Chechnya, and both needed to be treated at a hospital following the assault.
The journalistic topics in these recent incidents were different. Milashina was reporting on human rights abuses initiated by authorities in Chechnya under the orders of the region’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, while Rubtsova and Sadovskaya were covering a “concrete family, which did not want people to know about their actions”. However, there are commonalities between the two cases when it comes to “methods of pressuring [female] journalists in the region”, Rubtsova told IPI.
Despite Russia’s descent into full repression of independent media after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, independent journalists are in theory still free to report on issues not related to the war. However, opposition movements and domestic violence in the country’s North Caucasus region are still topics particularly dangerous for journalists to report on, as shown by the recent attacks on Milashina, Rubtsova, and Sadovskaya.