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Shrinking Press Freedom In Russia

Press freedom remains under fire in Russia. Maksim Kashulinsky, the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was recently found guilty of defamation after publishing an article about a business that is run by Yelena Baturina, the wife of the mayor of Moscow. The court ruled against Mr. Kashulinsky for commenting publicly on the efforts of Ms. Baturina to block the article's publication.

In Russia, investigative reporting on sensitive topics such as corruption, organized crime, and human rights abuses in the North Caucasus has long been risky. Mr. Kashulinsky's predecessor, Paul Klebnikov, was shot to death on a Moscow street in 2004. The case remains unsolved.

The latest U.S. State Department human rights report says beatings of journalists in Russia by unknown assailants are routine. In October of 2006, noted independent journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her apartment building in Moscow.

According to the State Department, the Russian media continue to be subjected to pressure from the government. The Russian government uses its controlling interest in all national television and radio stations, as well as the majority of influential regional ones, to restrict access to information on many issues, in particular, events in the North Caucasus including Chechnya. Moreover, government pressure frequently leads reporters in Russia to engage in self-censorship.

It is time for the Russian government to demonstrate a renewed commitment to media freedom. As U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said, "It is our firm belief that a free press would actually make Russia stronger."