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Defending Press Freedom In Russia

People light candles next to a portrait of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Russia continues to be a very dangerous country for journalists.

Elena Milashina
Elena Milashina
Russia continues to be a very dangerous country for journalists. Twenty reporters in Russia have been killed and others have been beaten in connection with their work since 2000, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The latest case is that of Elena Milashina, an award winning reporter for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Recently, she had been investigating Russia’s federal counter-narcotics police, but she has also reported extensively on the conflicts in the North Caucasus. On April 4th, Ms. Milashina and her friend Ella Asoyan of Freedom House were brutally assaulted by two unidentified men. Ms. Milashina suffered head injuries and a concussion. This attack may have been related to Ms. Milashina’s work as an investigative reporter. The United States was pleased to see that on April 14, the Moscow Regional police arrested two men who have been charged with the assault.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, most violent attacks and murders against journalists in Russia remain unsolved. However, in a recent positive development, the gunman and several suspected organizers of the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya were indicted this year. A fellow reporter for Novaya Gazeta who was renowned for her critical coverage of the Chechen conflict, Ms. Politkovskaya was found shot to death in her apartment building in Moscow.

Other unsolved cases include the 2009 murder in Chechnya of Natalya Estemirova and the 2004 shooting in Moscow of Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov. Mr. Klebnikov was murdered, perhaps for his investigations into corruption and human rights abuses in Chechnya. His killer has never been brought to justice. Writing for Novaya Gazeta and the news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel, and reporting for Human Rights Watch and the Russian rights group Memorial, Ms. Estemirova had linked torture, disappearances and murders to Chechen authorities.

The United States has long been concerned about the deadly attacks on journalists in Russia and the failure to bring those responsible to justice. Journalists everywhere must be free to report without fear of reprisal or intimidation.