On Sunday, which marked the first United Nations-backed International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, CPJ joined a coalition of international press freedom and human rights groups in urging Russian investigators to serve justice for our murdered colleagues.
Russian actor Mikhail Porechenkov has joined basketball star Dennis Rodman, who declared North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un his best friend, and Jennifer Lopez who sang "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to the authoritarian leader of Turkmenistan, on the list of celebrities who have made human rights faux pas.
Journalists investigating the deaths of Russian soldiers that news reports claimed were killed during Russia's alleged involvement in Ukraine's conflict have been targeted in a series of attacks since late August, according to a press freedom group. Russia has denied that its soldiers were involved in the conflict, but journalists who spoke to the Committee to Protect Journalists said the attacks, mostly by unknown assailants, began after they tried to investigate the mysterious deaths of Russian soldiers.
On July 31, 26-year-old reporter, blogger, and civil activist Timur Kuashev disappeared in Nalchik, the regional capital of Russia's North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkariya. When such news breaks in the volatile region--where journalists and human rights defenders are slaughtered regularly and with impunity--families prepare for the worst. The next day, a body resembling Kuashev's turned up in a forested area on the outskirts of Nalchik. The journalist's parents confirmed that it was indeed their son, and a nightmare for every parent unfolded--an autopsy, a preliminary investigation, and waiting for results that would show how the young, athletic man had suddenly died of what officials concluded was heart-related problems.
Four years ago, when CPJ launched its Internet Advocacy program, we were met with lots of encouragement, but also some skepticism.
"Why do you need a program to defend the Internet?" one supporter asked. "You don't have a special program to defend television, or radio, or newspapers."
But the Internet is different. Increasingly, when it comes to global news and information the Internet is not a platform. It is the platform.
"There are no [independent] Ukrainian journalists left in Donetsk," said Aleksei Matsuka, chief editor of the regional news website Novosti Donbassa (News of Donbass). "They have fled the region since pro-Russia separatists started targeting and kidnapping reporters," Matsuka told CPJ during our brief meeting in Kiev.
On August 1, Russia will significantly tighten its grip on blogging and social media conversations and will acquire expanded powers to block Internet services originating abroad. The new authorities, approved by Russia's parliament in April, buttress existing regulations that have already been used to block several independent news sites, some of which reported on the political upheaval in Ukraine in a way that apparently drew the government's ire.
Nearly eight years after Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in an elevator near her apartment, authorities appear to have made little progress identifying the mastermind behind her murder. Although five men were sentenced to lengthy prison terms on June 9 for their roles in the slaying of the Novaya Gazeta journalist, her family and friends say Russian officials are dragging their feet in finding the real culprit.
More than seven years after the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the prominent Novaya Gazeta journalist, a jury is hearing the case against five defendants in the killing. The suspects were first announced in 2011, but proceedings did not begin until July 2013, amid controversy. Three of the current defendants were earlier acquitted of Politkovskaya's murder in a 2009 trial.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.