The horrific knife attack against Russian journalist Tatyana Felgenhauer, a renowned host of one of the country’s top independent radio stations, is renewing fears about the safety of journalists there.
Felgenhauer, who is a host and deputy editor with Echo of Moscow, was stabbed in the neck on Monday after an attacker burst into the studio of the radio station. Images showed blood splattered across the green room floor where guests wait before radio appearances.
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Tonia Samsonova, a London correspondent with Echo of Moscow, said her friend and colleague is recovering in hospital and has received a note saying she was happy to have survived the attack.
But the attack has shaken many independent journalists and news organizations who are critical of the Russian government and president Vladimir Putin.
“I was absolutely shocked,” Samsonova told Global News. “Unfortunately, [the attack] is not the first time and everybody at the radio station and all of my colleagues in Moscow know that they are under threat.”
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Samsonova described Felgenhauer as “one of the bravest reporters in Russia.”
“It’s a great gift for all of us that she survived,” Samsonova said. “It’s absolutely stunning that a person could be that strong.”
Echo of Moscow’s programs have often been critical of the government, drawing the ire of Russian politicians, state-run news organizations and business magnates.
Samsonova said its hosts and journalists regularly receive death threats and are often equated with traitors in Russia. She recalled one incident where supporters of a political ally of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made horrific threats following a tough interview.
“I was receiving threats that they will kill me, they would cut out my baby from my belly,” she said. “You receive those kinds of threats on a daily basis. It’s just like a white noise.”
She pointed to a news report from the state television station, Rossiya 24, which aired earlier this month and singled out Echo of Moscow and Felgenhauer personally. It claimed they were working with foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations to help form “pro-Western positions in Russian society.”
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The report included photographs of Felgenhauer and audio of her criticizing the conditions of journalists in Russia.
“State television which tells [the public] that those kinds of people who are Democrats, or Liberals, or people are not quite happy with the current affairs with what is going on in Russia, they are the enemies of the government,” Samsonova said.
Columnist Oleg Kashin, who survived a brutal attack in 2010, said during a televised interview that Felgenhauer’s “blood is on the hands of people from Rossiya 24.”
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A union for Russian journalists also sharply criticized the reporting saying it helped to create a violent political climate in the country.
“We think that these programmes stoke hatred towards our colleagues and could have provoked an unstable person into attacking Tanya,” the Union of Journalists and Media Workers said in a statement.
Monday’s stabbing follows other violent attacks against journalists in recent months and years — many of whom are critics of Putin.
Yulia Latynina, who hosted a weekly show for Echo of Moscow, fled Russia in September after her car was set on fire.
In March 2016, masked men stopped a small bus carrying a group of journalists investigating human rights abuses in Russia’s North Caucasus and viciously assaulted everyone inside before setting the vehicle on fire.
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And in 2006, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who won international acclaim for her in-depth reporting exposing human rights violations in Chechnya, was shot in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006.
Russian officials have said the attacker had a personal grudge against Felgenhauer. Moscow police released a brief video, in which the attacker, identified as Boris Grits, told investigators that he had a “telepathic contact” with Felgenhauer and claimed the journalist was “haunting” him.
But Samsonova questioned the statements from police and said the attack could still have been politically motivated.
“I can’t agree to that,” she said. “Crazy lunatics, in Russia, somehow only attempt to murder Liberal journalists. They don’t attempt to murder those who are working for the state-owned radio stations.”
*With files from Jeff Semple
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