Klebnikov family calls for journalists worldwide to probe editor’s unsolved murder

Washington, November 18, 2004—The family of slain journalist Paul Klebnikov is calling on reporters worldwide to launch an investigation into the unsolved murder of the Forbes Russia editor, gunned down in a contract-style slaying outside his Moscow office in July, the journalist’s brother said today.

“In this awful tragedy there are seeds of hope. We’ve been approached by many journalists who seek to send a message to the killers,” Peter Klebnikov said at a press conference organized by the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ is honoring the slain Forbes editor with one of its 2004 International Press Freedom Awards.

CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper also introduced award winners Svetlana Kalinkina, who endured years of harassment while editor of Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta in Belarus, and Alexis Sinduhije, who withstood government intimidation to launch Burundi’s Radio Publique Africaine. In addition, CPJ is honoring Aung Pwint and Thaung Tun, two Burmese documentary journalists imprisoned since 1999. All five journalists will be recognized on November 23 at an awards dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

“These awards honor the courage of individual journalists but they also demonstrate our collective determination to thwart forces that would silence the press,” Cooper told reporters.

Peter Klebnikov said his family was “somewhat frustrated” that no significant progress has been reported in the investigation four months after the editor was shot several times from a passing car.

Moscow police said in September that they considered two Chechen men in custody in another case to be suspects in the slaying, but authorities backed off the assertion just days later. Ten other journalists have been killed in contract-style slayings in Russia in the past four years, but no one has been brought to justice in any of the killings.

The Klebnikov family hopes to facilitate the investigative effort, but many details are still under discussion, including its leadership and composition. The goal, Peter Klebnikov said, is to shine additional scrutiny on the case in hopes of bringing those responsible to justice. Failure to do so, he said, undermines democracy in Russia.

An American journalist of Russian descent, Paul Klebnikov launched Forbes Russia in April 2004 and immediately caused a stir by publishing a list of Russia’s 100 wealthiest people. It was a “dream job” for the investigative journalist, Peter Klebnikov said, saying his brother was intent on helping to train a new generation of Russian reporters and to spread freedom of expression.

Klebnikov is one of 47 journalists killed in the line of duty so far this year, Cooper noted. Each year since 1991, CPJ has given International Press Freedom Awards to journalists who demonstrate extraordinary courage in the face of great personal risk.

When the awardees gather in New York next week, CPJ will also honor John Carroll, editor and executive vice president of the Los Angeles Times. Carroll will receive the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, given for a lifetime of distinguished achievement for the cause of press freedom. The award is named for the late CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman, who died in 1988.