New investigations are needed into cases of violence against journalists and those at risk need immediate protection, according to a new ARTICLE 19 report launched today in Moscow. The report ‘Russian Federation: Journalists under Attack’ finds that the authorities are failing to address violence against journalists in violation of international human rights standards and Russian law. The failure to bring the perpetrators and instigators of these attacks to justice is contributing to a climate of impunity in the country. Furthermore, the report highlights that the North Caucasus region is the deadliest place in country for journalists and media workers.
Ahead of Memorial Day (15 December) – a day to commemorate killed journalists in Russia – the international free speech group is urging the Russian authorities to renew stalled investigations into the killings of journalists and bring those responsible to justice, including in the cases of Anna Politkovskaya, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev and Hadjimurad Kamalov.
Independent Inquiries Needed
The call for a series of new independent inquiries is among a series of detailed recommendations to the Russian authorities included in the report.
The ten cases identified in the report as needing new investigations are:
- Anna Politkovskaya
- Mikhail Afanasyev
- Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev
- Natalia Estemirova
- Mikhail Beketov
- Elena Milashina
- Hadjimurad Kamalov
- Magomed Yevloyev
- Maksharip Aushev
- Kazbek Gekkiyev
Justice for Journalists
“Journalists in Russia are dying to tell their stories. We are concerned that journalists who investigate and write about human rights abuses, organised crime and corruption – or who publicly challenge or criticise officials – are particularly vulnerable to harassment and violent attacks and they need protection now” said David Diaz-Jogeix, Director of Programmes at ARTICLE 19.
“The Russian authorities must do more to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and to protect journalists, who do a vital job to keep society informed. Failing to protect journalists is failing the Russian people. If violence against journalists goes unpunished, the wrong message is conveyed – that speaking out is dangerous and that the authorities don’t care. The Russian Federation must take meaningful steps to put in place mechanisms to ensure the safety of journalists,” added Diaz-Jogeix.
Climate of Impunity
When those responsible for attacks against journalists are not brought to justice, journalists feel unsafe and a culture of fear emerges. The result is that people practise self-censorship, which prevents important information from being shared. This has an impact on the whole of Russian society, not just media workers. Impunity for attacks against journalists, together with growing censorship restrictions under President Putin’s third term as President, is contributing to reducing the space for critical voices to be heard in Russian society.
As part of the launch, ARTICLE 19 interviewed Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and Elena Milashina, Investigative Journalist, Novaya Gazeta.
The report demonstrates the Russian Federation’s failure to comply with international freedom of expression standards and highlights the need for greater protection for journalists. ARTICLES 19 recommends creating a new independent body to investigate crimes against freedom ofexpression and asks that the authorities design and implement a new and effective policy for the protection of journalists that complies with international human rights standards, in citing those in the Joint Declaration on Crimes against Freedom of Expression adopted in 2012.
The report contains a number of recommendations: to the authorities of the Russian Federation, to the international community, and to other key stakeholders, such as civil society organisations and media groups. While these recommendations largely reflect the principles of the Joint Declaration, they also take into account the specificities of the cases examined as part of this report. We hope that renewed efforts to investigate these cases will end the current vicious cycle of impunity by bringing the perpetrators and instigators of these “crimes against freedom of expression” to justice.