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Russian reporter, viewed as 'symbol of civil society', dies

Journalist Mikhail Beketov (L), photographed in a wheelchair at a rally to support assailed civil activists and reporters in Moscow, 21 November 2010.
Journalist Mikhail Beketov (L), photographed in a wheelchair at a rally to support assailed civil activists and reporters in Moscow, 21 November 2010.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Reporters Without Borders expresses deep sorrow at news of the death of Mikhail Beketov (Михаил Бекетов), who never fully recovered from injuries suffered in a violent attack in 2008 – a reprisal for his environmental-protection reporting.

Editor in chief of Khimkinskaya Pravda in the city of Khimki, and a fierce defender of local land resources, Beketov led opposition to a plan to build a highway through a nearby forest.

On 13 November 2008, Beketov was beaten and left for dead. Though he survived the attack, he spent months in a coma, and had a leg and several fingers amputated. In addition, head injuries left Beketov unable to speak. By 2011, thanks to his extraordinary strength of will, and a prosthetic leg and crutches, he did regain the ability to walk.

The shock caused by the attack forced the government to commit itself to ending impunity for crimes against the press. Nevertheless, Reporters Without Borders notes that Beketov's attackers were never identified.

“Mikhail Beketov fought to the end,” the press freedom organization said. “He was a symbol of a Russia that struggles, of a civil society that has arisen over the past year to demand respect. Today, it is more important than ever that his attackers be brought to justice. We demand the truth.”

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