Washington, August 19, 2004—A delegation led by the Committee to Protect Journalists met with senior U.S. and Russian officials today, calling on them to work together to aggressively investigate and prosecute those responsible for the July murder in Moscow of Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov.
“We urge U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to ensure that Paul Klebnikov’s killers are brought to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said later. “The business and international communities are watching developments in this case very closely.”
Klebnikov, 41, an American journalist of Russian descent, was shot four times by at least one assassin in a passing car as he left his office in Moscow the night of July 9. An investigative reporter whose work focused on the nexus of business, politics, and crime, Klebnikov was reportedly the target of threats before the slaying.
Authorities in Moscow have said they believe Klebnikov was killed because of his work. They described it as a contract-style slaying, the 11th such murder of a journalist in Russia since Putin took office in 2000. No one has been brought to justice in any of the slayings.
Meeting in separate sessions with senior officials at the White House, State Department and Russian Embassy, the CPJ delegation called on authorities in both countries to work together to end the years-long pattern of deadly violence against journalists.
“Journalists are being murdered with impunity in Russia, and Paul Klebnikov’s slaying is the most recent, shocking example,” said Cooper, who led the delegation. “Now is the time for the Kremlin to address this climate of lawlessness and demonstrate a willingness to enforce its own laws.”
The CPJ delegation also included Peter Klebnikov, a brother of the deceased journalist; Andrew Alexander, a CPJ board member and Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers; CPJ Washington representative Frank Smyth; and Alex Lupis, CPJ senior program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia. The delegation also met with staff members from the Congressional Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe.
Klebnikov launched Forbes‘ Russian edition in April 2004, believing that reforms were propelling the country toward greater transparency in business and politics. In his first editorial, Klebnikov said Russian business had arrived at a “new, more civilized stage of development” and cited the launch of Forbes‘ Russian edition as evidence.
In May, Forbes Russia published a list of Russia’s 100 wealthiest people and reported that Moscow had 33 billionaires, more than any other city in the world. Publication of the list focused attention on Russia’s billionaires, many of whom are trying to keep a low profile as Putin’s regime uses the courts, prosecutors, and security services to rein in oligarchs and strengthen the state’s economic role.
U.S.-based National Public Radio reported that some oligarchs threatened the editor, claiming their assets were inflated on the Forbes list.
Klebnikov had investigated other powerful people as well. In 1996 he profiled Boris Berezovsky, the media and oil tycoon who had close ties to the Kremlin during President Boris Yeltsin’s tenure. The Forbes profile suggested Berezovsky might have been involved in the 1995 murder of television journalist Vladislav Listyev, an allegation that prompted Berezovsky to sue Klebnikov and Forbes in the United Kingdom for libel. The suit was withdrawn after Forbes said it had no proof of Berezovsky’s involvement.
Klebnikov expanded his profile of Berezovsky into a book titled “Godfather of the Kremlin: The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism,” which he published in 2001.
Klebnikov’s second book was published in Russian. “Conversation with a Barbarian: Interviews with a Chechen Field Commander on Banditry and Islam” was based on interviews with Chechen separatist leader Khozh Akhmed Nukhayev and focused on organized crime in Chechnya. And Klebnikov had begun gathering material for a new book about the Listyev slaying, his publisher, Valery Streletsky, told the U.S.-based Baltimore Sun.