Kiev, October 18, 2018--Russian authorities should thoroughly investigate threats made against Russia's independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, and bring those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. A funeral wreath, a severed goat's head, and threatening notes were sent to the newspaper's Moscow office this week in what the paper said in an editorial statement were the latest threats against its journalists.
"Russian authorities must take immediate action to ensure the safety of the brave journalists of Novaya Gazeta and its offices," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator in New York. "Such threats would be sickening anywhere, but they must be taken particularly seriously in Russia, where words of warnings to journalists for doing their jobs are all too often followed by violence."
The funeral wreath, which Novaya Gazeta said arrived yesterday, came with a note calling reporter Denis Korotkov "a traitor to his country." A basket containing a severed goat's head and red carnations, that the paper says was delivered to its editorial office today, included a note that read, "To Novaya Gazeta's chief editor. Greetings to you and Korotkov!"
Novaya Gazeta, one of the last independent news outlets in Russia, is critical of President Vladimir Putin and his government. The newspaper has said that authorities are conducting a smear campaign against Korotkov, whom authorities said endangered Russian soldiers' families by publishing the personal information of pilots serving in the Russian Air Force in Syria.
In its editorial statement, Novaya Gazeta rejected the accusations and said it filed a police report in response to the latest threats against Korotkov.
"We have only two weapons: publicity--which is why we continue to do our jobs--and the law," Novaya Gazeta said. Russian authorities, the newspaper argued, "are required to do everything they can to give us the protection of the law."
Russia's Interior Ministry and the Moscow police department did not immediately respond to CPJ's email requesting for comment. CPJ's calls made late today went unanswered.
Prior to joining Novaya Gazeta, Korotkov worked for the Fontanka news website. According to reports, the journalist was forced into hiding after receiving threats for his reporting at Fontanka about a shadowy Russian mercenary group called Wagner, which according to Russian and international media, has operated in war-stricken areas including eastern Ukraine, Syria, and the Central African Republic.
CPJ documented earlier this year how three journalists who were investigating the Wagner group in the Central African Republic, for the Moscow-based investigative media outlet Investigations Management Centre, were shot and killed.
Five Novaya Gazeta reporters have been murdered for their work since 2000, according to CPJ data.