Police in southern Russia detained and beat two journalists who were covering a protest against local officials that turned violent, one of the reporters said.
Said-Khussein Tsarnayev, a freelance journalist, said yesterday he and his colleague were picked up by police on Saturday while they were covering a protest in Nazran, the main city in the province of Ingushetia, west of Chechnya.
The police crackdown was one of the harshest to date on protests in the poor, mostly Muslim republic of fewer than 500,000 people.
Tsarnayev said both he and his colleague Mustafa Kurskiyev from Zhizn were beaten by police. "Kurskiyev was beaten so badly that he was on the verge of losing consciousness," Tsarnayev said. He said police released him and Kurskiyev after more than 30 hours in custody.
About 300 protesters angry with the leadership of Ingushetia clashed with riot police Saturday, throwing rocks and firebombs. Protesters, many of whom appeared to be young men, set fire to a hotel and a building housing a local pro-government newspaper that the opposition has criticized for praising authorities.
Police fired shots into the air before moving into the crowd, severely beating people and hauling them into police vans.
Alexander Cherkasov of the Memorial rights group also said yesterday on Ekho Moskvy radio that Tsarnayev and Kurskiyev were beaten. He said that police had initially sought to accuse the two reporters of taking part in the riots, but released them under public pressure.
Police detained several other journalists Saturday, but quickly released them.