Russia10 July 2007
After Russia awarded 2014 Winter Olympics, authorities should demonstrate a real will to solve murders of journalists
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The press freedom situation in Russia and, in particular, the lack of progress in solving murders of journalists continue to be a source of great concern, Reporters Without Borders said today after the Russia resort of Sochi was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics. The organisation sent a team to Russia at the end of last month to meet the families and employers of murdered journalists.
“We are not in the least reassured by the announcement that a special commission of enquiry led by jurist Alexandre Bastrykin will get under way in September,” the press freedom organisation said. “Bastrykin’s proximity to the Kremlin and the fact he is regarded as a supporter of Vladimir Putin, with whom he studied in St. Petersburg, raise doubts about his independence. The problem is not the resources available to prosecutors but the existence of a real desire to solve the murders of journalists. The creation of new commission with an unclear mandate does not change that.”
Although the prosecutor’s office has welcomed the way the investigation into the murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya is being conducted, none of its conclusion has yet been revealed. The prosecutor has only said that it is highly likely that those responsible will be identified.
Six leads are currently being investigated, but colleagues of Politkovskaya whom Reporters Without Borders met said they suspected that those who gave the orders for her murder were not being questioned and that only the perpetrators would be brought to trial. Their initial confidence in the judicial system’s ability to carry out a complete investigation has waned. Recent statements published in the press implying that exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky could have been involved in Politkovskaya’s murder seem designed to deflect attention from alternative theories that would be more embarrassing for the Russian authorities.
The retrial of the alleged murderers of the editor of the Russian version of Forbes magazine, Paul Klebnikov, could not be held because of the supposed disappearance one of the leading defendants, Kazbek Dukuzov. Dukuzov nonetheless appeared on Andrei Kalitin’s programme “Spetsrassledovaniye” (“Special Investigation”) on the national TV station Pervy Kanal (Channel 1) on 18 June and told Kalitin he was not hiding from the authorities.
A total of 21 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in Russia since March 2000. Ivan Safronov of Kommersant, who was killed in a fall from the fourth floor of his apartment building on 2 March could be the 22nd. The prosecutor’s office announced on 29 June that, in its view, there was no link between his death and his recent work. But those close to Safronov say he had no reason to take his own life and there was no sign that he intended to do so, and that the authorities should be examining the possibility of a link between his death and his research into Russian arms sales to the Middle East.