On September 15, a CPJ delegation released a special report in
Moscow on impunity in journalist killings
committed in Russia
under the country’s current leadership. The report, Anatomy
of Injustice, garnered an unusual amount of attention from the Russian media.
Our press conference at the Independent
was packed with journalists, both domestic and international; representatives from
20 news agencies, print and online publications, and radio and television
outlets covered the release. The high attendance was a clear sign of the
magnitude of the issue and the urgent need for it to be addressed.
Secrecy, obstruction of due process, corruption in law
enforcement, conflicts of interest within the investigating agencies, and the lack
of an effective means of accountability are among the major speed-bumps on the
road to achieving justice in the 17 cases examined in detail in our report.
Only in one of those cases--that of Novaya
Gazeta journalist Igor
Domnikov--have the killers been convicted; in all cases, the masterminds behind
the murders remain at large.
At CPJ’s press conference, the issue gained a human
dimension with the spontaneous appeal of Rimma Maksimova, the mother of St. Petersburg journalist Maksim
Maksimov, who disappeared in 2004 and was later declared killed. Maksimova,
who had traveled to Moscow from Germany to
attend our event, said: “For five years, I have been bumping my head into an
impervious wall,” she said. “No one talks to me, no one responds to my requests
for information.” Maksimova also blamed the Russian public for their seeming
indifference to the issue, and the media for failing to cover the complete lack
of lack of movement in the case of her slain son.
CPJ board member Kati Marton, Brussels-based senior adviser Jean-Paul Marthoz,
and I met with dozens of journalists, human rights defenders, press freedom
advocates, foreign diplomats, and Russian government officials in an attempt to
shed light on the issue and urge responses. On some occasions, we were there
mostly to listen; on others, to lend hope the best we could.
Often we held meetings to press for action. Such were our
meetings with Ella Pamfilova, the head of the presidential human rights
council, whom CPJ first met with in 2007, three months after the murder of Anna Politkovskaya; and with
the Investigative Committee at Russia’s
Prosecutor General’s Office--the agency directly responsible for solving the
Pamfilova, who serves as a liaison between Russia’s top
leaders and civil society, promised to hand a copy of our report to President
Dmitry Medvedev. Pamfilova told us that she shared our concerns and found the
report’s recommendations--particularly those aimed at Russia’s law enforcement--practical
and useful. In our meeting with the Investigative Committee, we engaged in a
substantive discussion on the specific cases examined in our report as well as
on the need to start reversing the record of impunity in the murders of
journalists. We spoke of setting a precedent by bringing at least one
journalist murder to a successful conclusion--with both the immediate killers
and the masterminds brought to justice.
The very fact that the Investigative Committee allotted an
11-member team to meeting with CPJ, and that the Foreign Ministry sent its own
representative to engage with us on the issue, demonstrates that Russia’s government realizes the significance of
the matter, and its negative repercussions for Russia’s image abroad and rule of
law at home. They seem to recognize the need to remedy the record. This is a welcome
change from Russia’s
previous, largely nonresponsive behavior to similar calls for substantive
dialogue. But willingness to meet should not be confused with the will to act,
which is yet to come. And CPJ will be calling the Investigative Committee on
its commitment to make headway in the 17 cases--we agreed to come back to Moscow and meet with the
agency in a year for a progress update.
After releasing our report in Moscow,
CPJ traveled to London to launch Anatomy of Injustice in the United Kingdom
by holding a joint panel with local press freedom group Index on Censorship.
The panel also featured the director of the BBC's Global News division, Richard
Sambrook, and prominent Russian journalist-in-exile Manana Aslamazian.
Elisabeth Witchel, the coordinator of CPJ’s Campaign Against Impunity, and I
met with journalists, human rights advocates, and local think tanks to share
the findings of our report and strategize about a unified approach to combating
the problem. The consensus was immediate--a more focused and coordinated effort
among press freedom groups in Russia
and abroad is necessary; the moment to act is now. We also met with
representatives from the Russia Section at the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth
Office, who demonstrated deep awareness of the problem and promised to continue
to press Russia
on it in bilateral and multilateral meetings.
Jean-Paul Marthoz, senior adviser to CPJ's Impunity Campaign, and I finished a full round of meetings with representatives
of the European Parliament and the European Commission. We shared the findings of Anatomy
of Injustice with them and discussed the levels of engagement between Russia
and the European Union on the issue of impunity. We received assurance that the
EU remains committed to supporting journalists and human rights defenders on
the ground in Russia.
Anatomy of Injustice, representatives
told CPJ, will be used as a working document in preparation for upcoming
dialogue sessions between the EU and Russia, scheduled to start in early
November. CPJ is also due to meet with representatives from the European
Council, the European Union’s main governing body, on Tuesday.
(Reporting from Brussels)