U.S. State Department: 2008 Human Rights Report – Russia
FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog, February 26, 2009, San Francisco — International observers reported that the December 2007 State Duma election was not fair and failed to meet many international standards for democratic elections. Likewise, the March 2 election for president, assessed to be still not free and not fair, repeated the flaws of the State Duma election, with observers expressing concern over the registration process, unequal access to the media by candidates, and abuse of administrative resources.
There were numerous reports of government and societal human rights problems and abuses during the year. The government’s human rights record remained poor in the North Caucasus, where governments in Ingushetiya and Dagestan faced increased opposition from disaffected social groups and insurgencies, and the Chechen government forcibly reined in the Islamist insurgency that replaced the separatist insurgency as the main source of conflict. Security forces reportedly engaged in killings, torture, abuse, violence, and other brutal or humiliating treatment, often with impunity.
Government pressure weakened freedom of expression and media independence, particularly of the major television networks. Five journalists were killed during the year, in one case in Ingushetiya by police. Unresolved killings of journalists remained a problem. As some print and Internet media reflected a widening range of views, the government restricted media freedom through direct ownership of media outlets, pressuring the owners of major media outlets to abstain from critical coverage, and harassing and intimidating journalists into practicing self-censorship.