IPI Delegation Raises Issues of Impunity and Self-Censorship in Russia

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International Press Institute, IPI LogoOctober 2, 2009

International Press Institute (IPI), a media freedom organisation with an almost 60-year history of defending liberty of the press, on Wednesday began a five day advocacy mission to Russia, one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.

The mission began with an investigation into the events surrounding the brutal attack on a Khimki-based editor-in-chief in November 2008.

Unknown assailants beat Mikhail Beketov outside his home in November of last year, leaving him for dead. Colleagues believe the attack was linked to Beketov’s reporting on corruption at the local government level. The reporter remains hospitalised to this day.

The IPI delegation, consisting of Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza editor-in-chief Adam Michnik, Russian investigative monthly Sovershenno Secretno editor-in-chief Galina Sidorova, IPI deputy director Alison Bethel McKenzie, and IPI press freedom adviser Colin Peters, travelled to Khimki to talk to Yevgeniya Chirikova, a local environmental campaigner who is continuing Beketov’s work.

“So far the official investigation has turned up nothing,” Chirikova told the delegation, describing the authorities’ seeming lack of interest in the case.

“Police didn’t even call me in as a witness, I had to volunteer myself to make a statement,” she said.

The IPI delegation then visited the editorial office of the Moscow-based Sovershenno Secretno to talk to investigative reporters, followed by a visit to the headquarters of tri-weekly independent Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper that has suffered the loss of four of its journalists and two other associates in the past decade.

The six were either murdered or died in suspicious circumstances.

Commenting at the end of the Moscow leg of the mission, IPI delegate Adam Michnik said that “censorship in the official sense does not exist in Russia.”

“But it does exist in the form of pressure, of fear of physical attack, which shows itself in self-censorship,” continued Michnik. “Journalists cannot perform their normal, professional duties.”

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