American journalist Paul Klebnikov was shot to death this month in Moscow by unknown assailants. The longtime investigative reporter was the editor of the newly launched Russian-language edition of the U.S.-based Forbes magazine.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called for quick action by Russian authorities to find Mr. Klebnikov's murderers:
“It is important for us that the killers be brought swiftly to justice. And swift accountability in this case is important to avoid a climate of fear for journalists. Paul Klebnikov was a courageous and talented journalist, who represented the best of American values of fair play, equality, and openness.”
Paul Klebnikov's work focused on the links among politics, corruption, wealth, and violence. His book about exiled Russian business tycoon Boris Berezovsky, entitled “Godfather of the Kremlin,” was published in 2000. His second book, “Conversation with a Barbarian,” dealt with organized crime and the continuing war in Chechnya, which has been marked by numerous atrocities both by Russian forces and Chechen rebels. A couple of months ago, Mr. Klebnikov’s magazine, Forbes, published a list of the one-hundred richest businessmen in Russia, including three dozen billionaires. The list provoked much comment in a country where most people are desperately poor.
As the descendant of Russians who had emigrated after the Communist takeover in 1917, Paul Klebnikov had an abiding interest in and affection for Russia. But he didn’t limit himself to writing about that country. In an article published in 2003 by the English-language edition of Forbes magazine, he told of the corruption of Iran's ruling Islamic clerics. In Iran, Mr. Klebnikov wrote, a small group of clerics and their associates “call the shots behind the curtain and have gotten very rich in the process.”
Whether in Russia, Iran, or anywhere else, as The Wall Street Journal newspaper put it, Paul Klebnikov “was not afraid to make powerful enemies in the interest of honest journalism.” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Paul Klebnikov's murderers must be brought to justice. Those responsible must be held to account.