Killings of Journalists in Russia Lead to Self-Censorship | Digital Journal

By Ted Lipien

The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has released a report on unsolved killings of journalists in Russia which identifies the Russian Federation as one of the deadliest countries in the world for the press.

Published September 15, 2009 by Digital Journal

The international organization of journalists ranked Russia third worldwide in the number of journalists killed and one of the worst nations in solving crimes against the press. Russia was ranked ninth worst in the category. 

CPJ has been calling on Russian officials to solve the problem of impunity in attacks on the press. The latest report, “Anatomy of Injustice: The Unsolved Killings of Journalists in Russia” examines the deaths of 17 journalists in Russia since 2000. In only one of these cases of journalists murdered in retaliation for their work have the killers been convicted. The killings of internationally known journalists, Forbes Russia Editor Paul Klebnikov, and Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya, remain unsolved along with many other cases. The most recent murder was that of reporter and activist Natalya Estemirova, who was kidnapped and killed in Chechnya. Another recent victim was Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, editor of the Rostov-on-Don newspaper Korruptsiya i Prestupnost, who died after an assault. 

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)This official White House photograph is being made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way or used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

CPJ blames the Russian authorities for creating a political atmosphere in which journalists who are critical of the Kremlin are marginalized, effectively barred from state-controlled national television, subjected to bureaucratic harassment, and vulnerable to attacks. The report points out that both President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have promised to address the problem, but the Committee to Protect Journalists believes that these statements do not go far enough and have not resulted in stopping or solving murders of journalists in Russia.

CPJ report states that a solution to the problem must start with the political tone set by the Kremlin, which — the international organization of journalists believes — has led to self-censorship in the Russian press, leaving issues of vital importance underreported or entirely uncovered. CPJ warns that in-depth, critical journalism is in danger of becoming extinct in one of the world’s most influential countries. CPJ advises the Russian leaders that if Russia is to pursue a democratic future it cannot allow the levers of power to be unexamined by independent journalists. 

FreeMediaOnline.org, a San Francisco-based media freedom nonprofit, reported that recent examples of Russia-related self-censorship, that by now has affected US-based media outlets, included the banning by the Conde Nast publishing group of an article critical of Mr. Putin from the Russian edition of the GQ magazine and the delay in reporting on this story on the Russian website of US taxpayer-funded Radio Liberty, RFE/RL, which has news bureaus in Prague, the Czech Republic, and in Moscow.

CPJ calls on President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin to condemn all attacks on the press in clear, public, and unequivocal terms and to put a stop to efforts to marginalize or criminalize critical journalism. The report said that the Russian leaders should hold top law enforcement officials accountable for solving murders and violent crimes against journalists. CPJ also called on the international community to hold Russian leaders accountable for their record on this issue by monitoring the state of the media in Russia, using political persuasion to effect change, and taking substantive action in international legal forums.

READ the Digital Journal op-ed in Internet Archive.

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