CPJ: Unsolved Killings of Journalists Lead to Self-Censorship in Russia


FreeMediaOnline.org Logo. FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog, September 15, 2009, San Francisco — 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 (ranked third worldwide) and one of the worst nations in solving crimes against the press (ranked ninth worst). 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.

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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.

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.

Link to “Anatomy of Injustice: The Unsolved Killings of Journalists in Russia” – The Committee to Protect Journalists

FreeMediaOnline.org LogoFreeMediaOnline.org, a San Francisco-based media freedom noprofit, has reported extensively on killings of journalists and frequent instances of intimidation and self-censorship in media outlets in Russia. 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.

Recent examples of Russia-related self-censorship that 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 by US taxpayer-funded Radio Liberty.

Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, RFE/RL, a private entity which receives money from the US Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors, BBG, has a major news bureau in Moscow and a large number of local reporters. FreeMediaOnline.org has criticized the BBG, a bipartisan Federal board consisting of political appointees, and the administrations of both President George W. Bush and President Obama, for not protecting Radio Liberty reporters from being scrutinized and threatened by the FSB, the Russian secret security service, and for severely reducing the Voice of America, VOA, broadcasts to Russia. The BBG manages VOA and RFE/RL by controlling their budgets, programs, and appointments of key personnel. Both the BBG and VOA are based in Washington, D.C. RFE/RL has its headquarters in Prague, the Czech Republic, with major presence in Russia and in other countries of the former Soviet Union, where its reporters and staff are also exposed to harassment by the secret police serving authoritarian regimes.

Link to “How Self-Censorship Works: Putin, GQ, and US Taxpayer-Supported Radio Liberty” by Ted Lipien

Link to “Independent US Bloggers Beat Voice of America and Radio Liberty in Delivering Uncensored News to Russia” by FreeMediaOnline.org