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Stanislav Kucher (file photo)
MOSCOW -- A prominent Russian journalist has called on journalists working for the state-run media to be "professionals" after they failed to cover recent demonstrations against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

In a statement, Stanislav Kucher of Kommersant FM radio slammed those journalists for "keeping mum" about the events on Moscow's Triumph Square on December 6 in which thousands of people protested alleged fraud in the December 4 parliamentary elections and shouted anti-Putin slogans.

The demonstration was not sanctioned by Moscow authorities, although thousands of supporters of the ruling United Russia party were given official permission to gather on the square. Police arrested some 600 protesters and opposition politicians Eduard Limonov, Sergei Mitrokhin, and Boris Nemtsov, among others.

State-run television and radio failed to cover the protests or the arrests.

Kucher told RFE/RL that the goal of his statement -- which was published on the Kommersant website (read in Russian here) -- is to help five, 10, or 20 colleagues working for state media outlets "to wake up and start doing their jobs professionally."

"This is not about politics or something; this is about professionalism, that is all," he said. "I personally know some colleagues working in state television companies who are capable of simply saying 'no' at the editorial meeting and start doing something different than they have been instructed to do."

Kucher said many journalists were only working for state media because they listen to their bosses and do as they are told, a condition that they accept.

But he added that now was a time for "big changes" and people could and should change their practices.

Kucher added that he had received numerous phone calls from various journalists who have made very different comments regarding his statement. But he said the majority who called said that they support his call.

Read more in Russian here
QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- A public prosecutor monitoring prisons in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province is refuting reports about an ongoing hunger strike by detainees at a maximum-security labor camp, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Faizullo Holov told RFE/RL that he and a team from his office visit all prisons in the country three times a month and are not aware of any hunger strike. He said all inmates in local jails are being treated in accordance with the law.

"They live in heated barracks and eat three times a day," Holov said.

But an inmate in the YaT-9/7 labor camp in the town of Qurghonteppa, who asked not to be identified, told RFE/RL by mobile phone on December 6 that five inmates have been on a hunger strike since December 1 to protest what they call "illegal deeds of the prison guards" -- including alleged torture and other rights abuses.

The inmate also said there are problems with the heating of the barracks inside the camp and that to shave, prisoners must share a razor blade with several other prisoners -- including some who are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.

The inmate said "the guards beat and threatened to kill" one prisoner in the labor camp "after he refused to pay them a $1,500 bribe in exchange for becoming eligible for the recently announced nationwide amnesty."

He also said the hunger strikers are "ready to take their own lives if their protest action is ignored."

Holov said after hearing RFE/RL's report on the Qurghonteppa jail that he will visit the facility to check if the information about an ongoing hunger strike is true.

The YaT-9/7 labor camp is a maximum-security facility where men convicted for serious crimes serve long prison terms.

In 2005, 30 inmates in that labor camp organized a riot that was suppressed by riot police. The riot's organizers later received additional prison terms. At least three of them died later in custody.

Read more in Tajik here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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