Impunity: stopping the killers

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Index on Censorship has posted an article by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon about the issue of impunity in the murders of journalists. The post outlines how press freedom advocates can combat the culture impunity and find justice in the cases of murdered journalists.

On 10 October 2006, as thousands of mourners gathered on a cold, rainy day in Moscow to bury slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya, President Vladimir Putin emerged from a meeting in Dresden, Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel and for the first time spoke publicly about the killing, which had taken place four days earlier.

Putin called the murder an “unacceptable crime which cannot be allowed to go unpunished” but quickly added that Politkovskaya’s “influence on political life in the country was extremely insignificant in scale. She was known in journalist and human rights circles, but her influence on political life in Russia was minimal.”

For Politkovskaya’s friends and colleagues in Russia and around the world, Putin’s words were more than a slap in the face. They would likely be interpreted by prosecutors and other high officials in Russia as a signal that the president wanted a perfunctory inquiry, not a real effort to find the killers of a journalist whom he viewed as a personal enemy.

Politkovskaya, a reporter with the fiercely independent Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, had reported on human rights abuses in Chechnya and attacked Putin personally for indifference, ineptitude, incompetence and cruelty. She was the 13th journalist to be murdered since Putin had come to power in 2000, and at the time there had not been a single conviction. This record of impunity was producing fear and self-censorship among Russian journalists, undermining efforts to report on a variety of controversial issues, from corruption to human rights abuses.

You can read the full article, “Impunity: stopping the killers”, at Index on Censorship.