The attack on employees of Sputnik's Turkish bureau and their detention by police is a blatant violation of their rights, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said.
"The attack on and detention of employees of the Turkish bureau of the Sputnik Information Agency and their detention is a flagrant violation of the rights of journalists," the ministry said in a statement Sunday.
Confirming earlier reports that it had become impossible to reach the three Sputnik Turkey employees since they appealed to police, Moscow called on Ankara to intervene to resolve the situation, and to work to ensure the safety of representatives of Russian media in the country. The Foreign Ministry also called on Turkish authorities to help "clarify all the circumstances of the incident."
"The journalists were threatened with physical violence, they were told to stop their professional activities. According to available information, the [employees] have been in the hands of Turkish security forces. The situation is complicated by the fact that it is not possible to establish contact with them," the ministry said.
Rossiya Segodnya Plans UN Appeal
The Foreign Ministry's comments were echoed by a statement from the press service of the Rossiya Segodnya Information Agency, Sputnik's parent company.
"We consider this a gross violation of the freedom of speech, the persecution of people for the honest carrying out of their work. We demand security and the immediate release of our employees," Rossiya Segodnya's press service said.
The news agency promised to appeal to the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and UNESCO in connection with the situation.
Russian Lawmakers, Journalists' Union Demand Action
Russian Senators Oleg Morozov and Konstantin Kosachev have called on Turkey to take measures to prosecute the individuals harassing Sputnik Turkey's employees, and warned that Russia would respond. "Any other scenario of actions by authorities will lead to an additional complication of bilateral relations," Kosachev warned.
Also Sunday, Union of Russian Journalists secretary Timur Shafir constituted the attempt to break into the homes of Sputnik Turkey employees as a direct attack which required not only widespread condemnation by the journalistic community and the public, but direct involvement by the Russian government.
The official said it must be investigated how exactly the attackers managed to receive information about journalists' home addresses. "It's clear that a deliberate 'leak' of their personal information took place. Safety for journalists is one of the key components of freedom of speech and journalism, and this issue is especially acute in Turkey, which currently leads in statistics on harassment, attacks and detention of journalists. Our colleagues working in the country must have guarantees on their personal security - in the interests of both Russia and Turkey itself," Shafir said.
The attack on three Sputnik Turkey employees by coordinated mobs took place at about 10:30 pm local time on Saturday night, with groups of at least 10 individuals at each location attempting to break down apartment doors and to storm the journalists' homes. The assailants reportedly shouted nationalist slogans, including "Turkey for the Turks," "Homeland is indivisible," and others, and accused the Sputnik employees of being "traitors" and "Russian spies." The attackers fled the scene once police arrived. No injuries were reported.