November 18, 2013
His Excellency Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
Dear President Putin,
I write to you from the Committee to Protect Journalists to urge you to speak out against impunity on November 23, the International Day to End Impunity.
For the past three years, international human rights defenders have come together annually to demand justice for those targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression, including journalists, activists, artists, and musicians.
Russia is among the top 10 countries worldwide where journalists have been regularly murdered and their killers have walked free, according to CPJ's 2013 Impunity Index. Over the last decade, 16 journalists were murdered for their work in Russia, according to CPJ research. In 13 of these cases, no suspects have been brought to justice. In the other three, low-level suspects, not the masterminds, were convicted. Russia's press freedom record is also marred by debilitating physical attacks on critical reporters; politically motivated prosecutions and imprisonments; threats, intimidation, and harassment of journalists and bloggers; a rising censorship of online speech; and the re-criminalization of defamation.
Impunity creates a climate where those who silence journalists are emboldened and violence is perpetuated. In the past year, three journalists joined CPJ's tally of those murdered for their work. Kazbek Gekkiyev was shot three times in the head on his way home from work last December, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev was killed outside his house in July this year, and Mikhail Beketov succumbed to a choking incident that proved fatal because of injuries he sustained in a 2008 attack.
While CPJ recognizes that some progress has taken place in recent years, particularly in holding to account some of those involved in the murders of Novaya Gazeta journalists Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasiya Baburova, and Igor Domnikov, justice even in those cases has fallen short of netting the commissioners of the crimes.
We urge that efforts continue in these and other cases--those who ordered these killings must be exposed and prosecuted, trials must proceed with transparency and without irregularities, and the legal rights of the victims' families must be protected. Pledges, such as the 2012 promise you made to see the probe into Beketov's attack move forward, must also be upheld.
As Russia finalizes preparations for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics and looks to its upcoming tenure on the United Nations Human Rights Council, this is the ideal time to affirm your commitment to tackling impunity with a strong statement on November 23.
We urge you to consider joining the many voices around the world that day in calling for justice, remembering the journalists whose lives were taken, and seeking an end to impunity.