Sign up for weekly updates

Russian helicopters fire on CNN and WTN crews

CPJ has confirmed reports that on 8 August 1996, four members of a
Cable News Network (CNN) television crew, travelling in an
armoured Land Rover vehicle that was clearly marked with the
letters "T.V." on the roof and sides, were stopped at a Russian
military checkpoint on the outskirts of Grozny, the capital of the
secessionist Russian republic of Chechnya. A Russian helicopter
gunship then flew overhead and began firing at the journalists.
The crew, which included producer/correspondent Steve Harrigan,
cameraman Sergei Volkov, sound technician Vladimir Ribalchenko and
driver Abdul Gudantov, scrambled back inside their vehicle and
drove away. No one was hurt in the incident.

On the same day, another press Land Rover vehicle, owned by
Worldwide Television News (WTN), carrying correspondents from
several foreign media, was stopped at a checkpoint. The vehicle
then came under fire by a Russian helicopter gunship and automatic
weaponry, and a rocket-propelled grenade narrowly missed it. WTN
told CPJ that the Land Rover was clearly marked as a press
vehicle. Journalists in the car, including a WTN cameraman who
continued filming, fled the vehicle to seek shelter in nearby
brush. WTN's video footage recorded the attack and showed the
journalists seeking cover in the woods.

In addition, Agence-France Presse reported that Russian federal
soldiers threatened the journalists, telling them not to record
the fighting or their equipment would be destroyed.

According to the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), a Moscow-based
press monitoring organization, the journalists attacked in the
incident included: WTN producer Erad Faist and driver Vakhtang
Zabashta [as received], Agence-France Presse correspondent
Sebastian Smith, EFE (Spanish state news agency) correspondent
Vladimir Dolin and Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky. There
were no injuries. GDF also reported that Reuters-TV stringer
Dmitry Kuznets was earlier detained by federal troops and his
video camera was confiscated.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to Russian authorities:
  • stating that such intimidation of journalists and interference
    with their work is a gross violation of international standards
    for press freedom
  • urgently calling on them to abide by international agreements to
    ensure safe working conditions for journalists in combat zones

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Boris Yeltsin
    President of Russia
    The Kremlin
    Moscow, Russia
    Fax: +7 095 206 5173
    (Alternate fax numbers to try: +7 095 206 39 61/206 51 37/206 00
    33; Government Press Office Fax: +7 095 230 24 08)

    the Russian diplomatic representative to your country

    (in Canada)
    Ambassador Alexander M. Belogonov
    Embassy of the Russian Federation
    285 Charlotte St.
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1N 8L5 Canada
    Fax: +1 613 236 6342

    (in the United States)
    Embassy of the Russian Federation
    Washington, DC
    United States
    Fax: +1 202 298 5735

    Please copy appeals to the originator if possible.

  • Latest Tweet:

    Importante congreso regional para impulsar la Libertad de Expresión en #Latinoamérica:…