The Committee to Protect Journalists makes the following recommendations to Russian authorities and the international community in the interest of reversing the record of impunity in journalist deaths in Russia.
Anatomy of Injustice: The Unsolved Killings of Journalists in Russia
To President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
• Condemn publicly and unequivocally all acts of violence against journalists as crimes not only against citizens, but against the public’s right to be informed. Meet with victims’ families and acknowledge the government’s failure to protect their loved ones’ right to life and its inability to bring the murderers to justice.
• Commit all of the resources of your offices to bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Declare absolute intolerance of corrupt elements in law enforcement that sabotage investigations into journalist deaths. Hold such people accountable for their actions under the law. Demand regular progress reports from your subordinates in Russia’s investigating agencies. Instruct those agencies to make progress reports public.
• Publicly restate your recognition of the important role independent news-gatherers, investigative journalists, and critical commentators play in Russian society. Allow independent journalists to repopulate the public space.
To the Prosecutor General and the Investigative Committee
• Communicate regularly with the relatives of the slain journalists. Allow relatives and their legal representatives full, unfettered access to investigative case files.
• Assign new, unbiased investigators in cases in which conflicts of interest have hampered probes. Where conflicts of interest dictate, transfer cases from current jurisdictions to neutral ones.
• Reopen all closed investigations and restart investigations that are technically open but dormant in practical terms. Pursue unchecked leads, seek out and question witnesses, track down and detain wanted suspects. Where professional motives have been dismissed without sufficient investigation, focus attention on the victim’s journalism.
• Ensure that vigorous investigative work is being done in each case by requiring regular, specific progress reports from subordinates at the district and regional levels.
To judicial authorities
• Open court proceedings in journalist killings to the public and the press. Ensure jurors and witnesses are protected from intimidation.
• Demonstrate independence from political, corporate, criminal, and other external pressures.
Review and, where appropriate, reverse questionable, unfair, or unexplained judicial decisions.
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
To European institutions
• The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, of which Russia is a member, should ask Russian authorities to fully comply with OSCE principles regarding free expression. It should fully support the work of its Representative on Freedom of the Media and relay to Russian authorities concerns expressed by this representative.
• The Council of Europe, of which Russia is a member, should scrutinize Russia’s compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 10 regarding free expression, and take appropriate action to promote compliance. It should direct the council’s Commissioner for Human Rights to carry out a mission on impunity in Russia and produce a report to be submitted to the council’s Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. The commissioner should hold public meetings in Russia on attacks against journalists and assist Russian authorities in enhancing human rights and legal institutions to address impunity.
• The Council of Europe should ensure Russia fully complies with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights regarding free expression. In the event Russian authorities fail to take appropriate action, the council should use enforcement mechanisms up to suspension of Russia’s membership.
• The European Union should instruct the EU Mission in Russia to monitor closely the situation of press freedom and apply to Russian journalists EU guidelines on human rights defenders.
• The European Parliament, and in particular its Subcommittee on Human Rights, should closely monitor the press freedom situation in Russia and hold a public hearing on press freedom, attacks against journalists, and impunity in Russia.
To leaders in the United States
• In bilateral and multilateral meetings, engage Russian leaders on human rights, press freedom, and impunity. Offer assistance and cooperation to combat impunity.
• The U.S. Congress, including the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, should hold public hearings on press freedom, attacks on journalists, and impunity in Russia.
To the U.N. Human Rights Council
• Hold Russia accountable to international human rights standards. Review in an expedient manner the human rights grievances of Russian citizens. Issue sanctions when violations are proved.
• The Human Rights Council should task the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to investigate the press freedom situation in Russia and report the findings and recommendations to the council and other relevant U.N. institutions.