According to the 2006 Worldwide Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, the Russian government continues to dismantle the independent media. Recently, the only remaining television network that exhibited independence of the Kremlin, REN-TV was sold. The new owners with the majority of the shares are allies of the Russian government. The Press Freedom Index report also says the recent slaying of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya "is a poor omen for the coming year."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently met with the son and colleagues of the murdered journalist. Ms. Politkovskaya, said Ms. Rice, "stood for what is best in independent journalism, a willingness to try to get to the truth at whatever cost." When those who tell the truth are silenced, a country's democratic development is undermined. "People need information in order to hold their government accountable," said Ms. Rice. And an independent press helps make such accountability possible.
Anna Politkovskaya wrote for Novaya Gazeta -- a Russian newspaper that has taken a stand critical of the government. Many of Ms. Politkovskaya's articles exposed human rights abuses in Chechnya, including torture and killings. "Investigative journalists are very often in danger," said Secretary of State Rice, "because by their very nature they expose truth. . . .but without investigative journalists who are willing to seek the truth, it's very hard for a democracy to function."
That is why it is critical that the Russian government find and bring to justice the murderers of Ms. Politkovskaya and other journalists. Among those killed were Paul Klebnikov, Russian-American editor of Forbes magazine, two successive editors in chief of the newspaper Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye, and independent television journalist Dmitriy Shvets.
Secretary of State Rice encouraged Russian journalists to "keep on working," despite difficult circumstances. A free press, she said, is vital to holding the Russian government accountable to the people.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.