In July, we honor two journalists, Natalia Estemirova and Paul Klebnikov. They were assassinated in Russia, five years and a great distance apart. Both were dedicated to their work, exposing corruption and violations of human rights.
Paul Klebnikov was an American of Russian descent. He was the chief editor of Forbes Russia magazine, a periodical on economic and trade issues.
Mr. Klebnikov specialized in exposing corruption, particularly though the investigation of murky post-Soviet business dealings. On July 9, 2004, Mr. Klebnikov was shot nine times from a passing car as he stepped outside his Moscow office building.
Natalia Estemirova was a journalist and human rights defender in Grozny, the capital city of Chechnya. As a researcher and board member of the Memorial Human Rights Center, Ms. Estemirova collected evidence of kidnappings, torture and killings in Chechnya from the start of the second separatist war there in 1999. She also focused on exposing extrajudicial executions, punitive house burnings, abductions, and arbitrary detentions in Chechnya. She criticized government authorities for failing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Ms. Estemirova worked closely in Chechnya with Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another journalist and human rights defender, and a critic of the Russian Government, who was murdered in Moscow in 2006. In 2007, Ms. Estemirova was the first recipient of the annual Anna Politkovskaya Award, which honors women human rights defenders from around the world working in conflict zones.
On the morning of July 15, 2009, Natalia Estemirova was accosted on the street as she walked to work and forced into a car. That afternoon, her remains were found not far from the main road in the neighboring Russian state of Ingushetia. She had been shot multiple times in the head and chest.
The murders of Paul Klebnikov and Natalia Estemirova remain unsolved.
“The organizers and perpetrators of these heinous murders were never brought to justice, and violence and pressure against journalists continues with impunity in Russia,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a written statement. “The United States condemns the Russian government’s ongoing crackdown on independent media and stands in solidarity with independent Russian journalists and human rights defenders.
“Estemirova’s and Klebnikov’s legacies will live on in their work, in the next generation of brave reporters they have inspired, and in the fight for human rights and against corruption in Russia.”