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Radio journalist stabbed outside apartment

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, May 29, 2012 – A Russian radio journalist stabbed 20 times last night in an attack that some suggested was linked to his work is reportedly expected to survive.

A Moscow police spokesperson said an unknown assailant lured Radio Mayak journalist Sergei Aslanyan out of his apartment building with a telephone call and hit the journalist in the head with a heavy object before stabbing him in the chest, neck and arm. Aslanyan, who worked for Ekho Moskvy radio for 10 years, called police following the attack and reportedly remained hospitalized in stable condition this morning.

RIA Novosti said the attack might be linked to recent a Radio Mayak broadcast in which Aslanyan allegedly insulted the prophet Mohammed. Aslanyan reportedly received threats following the broadcast in which he used the expression “rags to riches” in a discussion about Mohammed's biography. An imam in the eastern city of Kazan also reportedly asked Russia's Prosecutor General's Office to investigate Aslanyan for inciting ethnic hatred.

The Guardian reported that others speculated that the attack could be linked to Aslanyan's reports on Russia's auto industry and on corrupt traffic police.

International Press Institute (IPI) Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie expressed relief at news that Aslanyan survived the attack and she called on Russian authorities – who reportedly opened an investigation into the attack and seized closed-circuit television footage of the area where it occurred – to bring to justice those responsible.

“For far too long, those who attack Russian journalists have operated in a climate of impunity,” she said. “We urge officials to hold a full, swift and transparent investigation into this attack to demonstrate their commitment to ending such a climate.”

Noting the speculation about the motives behind the attack, Bethel McKenzie also urged leaders of Russia's Muslim community to denounce the attack in the event that it was shown to have been religiously motivated.

“Violence is never an acceptable response to unpopular words, even if those words offend religious sensibilities”, she said.

In other news, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported yesterday that federal prosecutors took over the investigation into the Dec. 15, 2011 murder of journalist and human rights activist Hadzhimurad Kamalov in Makhachkala, the capital city of the North Caucasus region of Dagestan.

Kamalov – the founder of Chernovik, an independent local newspaper known for reporting on government corruption, and the executive director of an organisation called Svoboda Slova (Freedom of Expression) – was shot 14 times as he left the newspaper's office late at night on the same day journalists across the country gave tribute to colleagues who perished due to their work in the previous 20 years.

Initial reports said that investigators linked Kamalov's murder to his work, but the investigation has reportedly stalled.

A spokesperson for the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, which will now oversee the probe, said the move came in response to a request by approximately 100 deputies in the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's Parliament.
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