The Tools of Diplomacy

WASHINGTONIn August 2 testimony on Capitol Hill, CPJ urged the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe to use diplomatic pressure to combat impunity in journalist murders in Russia and other former Soviet states. Here are excerpts of remarks given by Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.

“Impunity in journalist murders remains the gravest danger to press freedom, and threatens democracy in the transitional countries of the former Soviet bloc. Critical, investigative reporters–who work to uncover social ailments such as corruption, corporate crime, human rights violations, and abuse of power–are the usual targets of this lethal censorship. As violence against these messengers goes unpunished, fewer journalists are willing to risk their lives in pursuit of difficult stories, the press is forced to compromise its role as a watchdog, and the public is kept in the dark about important issues. …

“When it comes to impunity in journalist murders, Russia sets a sad regional standard. … A total of 47 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992, the vast majority of the killings unsolved. Since 2000, under President Vladimir Putin’s tenure, 17 journalists have been killed in Russia in the line of duty–14 out of them murdered in direct retaliation for their professional work. … Russia remains the political and moral force in much of the region, so its official hostility to independent media, sloppy police work in the investigation of journalists’ deaths, official stonewalling, and judicial inertia are widely emulated.”