Four years ago this month Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down execution-style in the stairwell of her apartment building in Moscow. Ms. Politkovskaya devoted much of her career to shining a light on human rights abuses, disappearances, and suspicious deaths, especially in Chechnya. Her killers remain at large.
Earlier this month, Russian authorities met with a delegation from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and pledged to aggressively pursue investigations into 19 unsolved murders of Russian journalists over the last decade, including 5 cases that had previously been closed or suspended.
The United States welcomes the announcement that the criminal investigation into Ms. Politkovskaya's case, among others, will be reenergized. It is important that all those responsible for the murders are brought to justice, including those that planned and ordered the killings. Russian officials also announced the appointment of a new investigator to the murder case of American Paul Klebnikov. Mr. Klebnikov was the editor of Forbes' Russian edition, when he was gunned down on a Moscow street in 2004.
Alexander Bastrykin, Russian head of a new Investigative Committee, told journalists that police were closing in on the killer of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova. Her body was found by a roadside in Ingushetia in July 2009. She worked for Memorial, a human rights group, and was one of the few human rights-oriented journalists still operating in Chechnya.
Russia is one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists to work. More than 50 have been killed since 1992, eight in 2009 alone. Human rights monitors say that harassment and intimidation against journalists has intensified during the last 10 years. A more concerted effort by Russian authorities to solve these murders and bring the culprits to justice would be a strong indication that Russia is taking this press freedom issue seriously.
Freedom of the press is a fundamental human right that the Russian government has committed itself to protect. The U.S. will continue to focus attention on Anna Politkovskaya's case and that of Paul Klebnikov and Natalya Estemirova, as well as the cases of all the other brave journalists who have been killed in Russia.