The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged Russian authorities to “carefully investigate” the circumstances behind injuries sustained by a blog editor while in detention.
In a June 19 statement, the New York-based media watchdog also reiterated its call on the authorities to immediately release Aleksandr Valov and to ensure that he receives necessary medical care.
Valov, the founder and editor in chief of the now-defunct site BlogSochi, has been in detention since January on extortion charges he rejects as politically motivated.
He was hospitalized on June 14 and operated on for a “penetrating wound in the abdomen," according to a medical report viewed by the CPJ.
On June 18, a Sochi city court held a hearing in Valov's absence and extended his detention for another month.
His defense lawyer, Aleksandr Popkov, told the CPJ that the case's chief investigator told him at the hearing that his client had stabbed himself with a pen.
The lawyer said the incident “needs to be investigated," adding, “Valov was preparing his defense and was not depressed.”
While in detention, Valov had filed complaints about harsh conditions in prison, the CPJ quoted Popkov as saying.
Valov is accused of trying to extort 300,000 rubles ($4,700) from Yury Napso, a member of Russia's lower house of parliament.
Valov, who faces up to seven years in prison, has called the charges against him retribution for publishing a photo report of a beach property belonging to Napso’s brother.
He has also called the charges "an attempt to shut down the major and only independent [media] project of Sochi” ahead of the March presidential election and the ongoing World Cup soccer tournament in Russia.
"While Russia basks in the international spotlight of the World Cup, a journalist who reported on the backdrop to the tournament has been languishing in prison and now, a prison hospital," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ Europe and Central Asia research associate.
Valov had clashed with authorities prior to his arrest. He and another BlogSochi reporter were sued by Napso for defamation, a case that Valov ended up losing.
BlogSochi also reported extensively on local corruption in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which ended up being the most expensive Winter Olympics in history.