In Russia, criminal ties to government fuel impunity

In Russia, even official statistics present a depressing picture: Contract-style murders of journalists, more often than not, remain unsolved. Even the rare investigations that result in trials do not answer the main question: Who ordered the killing?

Such was the case of Larisa Yudina, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Sovetskaya Kalmykiya Segondnya who was killed in 1998; such, too, was the case of Igor Domnikov, the slain Novaya Gazeta editor. 

One can draw several conclusions from this. The main one criminals can draw themselves: Killing journalists is allowed, no one will be punished for it, and no one will seriously investigate the crime. Journalists in Russia can be beaten, they can be threatened, and none of the law enforcement structures will look into their appeals or follow up on their reports. All this creates an atmosphere of impunity, which nourishes only one thing–the continued growth of crimes against journalists.

Why are we in this predicament? How is it that journalists who investigate corruption and wrongdoing by government officials are being killed or beaten? Why is it so dangerous for those who study the criminal underworld, which is fully controlled by Russian law enforcement agencies and secret services? It is so because “servants of the law” represent the main criminal powers in our society and country. And they won’t ever capture themselves.

The investigation of any crime or corruption charge can expose the entire pyramid of the criminal underworld–of which officials of various levels and law enforcement agents from various structures constitute an integral part. Journalists are the main enemies of the criminal state in Russia. And this criminal state not only does not want to guarantee journalists their right to press freedom. And it does not want to guarantee them their right to life.     

Editor’s note: Four Novaya Gazeta journalists have been murdered since 2000.