It has been a little over a week since the body of a young and talented journalist, Timur Kuashev, was found in a forest in Hasanya district near Nalchik, Kabardino- Balkaria. He disappeared from his home on 31 July, leaving his family and friends fearing the worst about his safety. On 1 August he was found dead.
The cause of his death has not yet been established, but following on from the threats he had received there is a high probability that his death is yet another in a long line of murders of brave and outspoken journalists and human rights defenders in Russia.
Timur was among those courageous journalists, who, despite possible risks and dangers, maintained the flow of information to every one of us, giving us a chance to see the truth. But the truth does not come cheap, especially in Russia, a country where those who reveal uncomfortable information critical of the government are at risk for revealing this – from killings to death-threats, disappearances, abductions, arbitrary arrests, prosecutions and imprisonments, harassment, intimidation, and confiscation of and damage to equipment and property.
Journalists under Attack
While there is officially no censorship in Russia, legal intimidation, physical violence and online media blocking are being used as a way of controlling and suppressing free speech and information. In its country report on Russia ARTICLE 19 shows that the authorities are failing to address the violence against journalists, creating and maintaining a climate of impunity.
The film Journalists under Attack, highlights the myriad of issues, challenges and risks faced by Russian journalists and media outlets today and was produced by ARTICLE 19, in collaboration with the Russian Union of Journalists and the Mass Media Defence Centre, Voronezh. In Journalists under Attack, Russian journalist Sveltana Svistunova sheds light on the real risks and dangers faced by journalists and media outlets.
In this first part, the film highlights the case of Anna Politkovskaya, a well-known independent investigative journalist and human rights defender who was assassinated in October 2006. In the eight years since, there have been three trials, the most recent ending in June 2014, which has led to the imprisonment of six people for carrying out her killing, but the masterminds who instigated her killing remain at large.
Even the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a high-profiled case, has not been fully resolved, as only partial justice was done, and the impunity for her murder will not be overcome until the instigators are apprehended and imprisoned. There has been little or no justice in many other cases murdered journalists and human rights defenders murdered since Anna – including for her colleague Natalia Estemirova (2009) and most recently Dagestani jouranlists Khadjimurad Kamlov (2011) and Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev (2013) to name but a few.
In the wake of Timur Kuashev’s murder, ARTICLE 19 reiterates its calls on the Russian government to adopt all necessary political and legal measures to protect journalists and to defend the right to freedom of expression. More specifically the Russian authorities should:
- Establish an independent body responsible for investigating his death, which is not linked to regional or federal authorities;
- Ensure that his death is in the first instance as likely to be connected to the execution of his professional duties, and therefore crimes against freedom of expression, unless otherwise established;
- Open a criminal investigation and make public information regarding the investigation
- Take into consideration and properly review information provided as a result of investigations carried out by others, whether it be the victims’ colleagues or other interested parties;
Specifically in the case of Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian Federal Investigative Committee should:
- Renew and focus efforts to investigate who instigated the murder of Politkovskaya, in an independent, speedy and effective manner;
- Ensure future trials are conducted in a proper and timely manner, taking into consideration the victim’s rights and interests, i.e. those of Politkovskaya’s family, as prescribed by Article 6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.