Dear President Obama: In advance of your July 6-8 summit in Moscow with President Dmitry Medvedev, we'd like to draw your attention to the pressing issue of impunity in violent crimes against journalists in Russia. We ask you to place this issue on the agenda for your talks. Seventeen journalists have been murdered for their work or have died under suspicious circumstances since 2000. In only one case have the killers been convicted. In every case, the masterminds remain unpunished.
New York, January 4, 2001 --- Of the 24 journalists killed for their work in 2000, according to CPJ research, at least 16 were murdered, most of those in countries where assassins have learned they can kill journalists with impunity.
This figure is down from 1999, when CPJ found that 34 journalists were killed for their work, 10 of them in war-torn Sierra Leone.
In announcing the organization's annual accounting of journalists who lost their lives because of their work, CPJ executive director Ann Cooper noted that while most of the deaths occurred in countries experiencing war or civil strife, "The majority did not die in crossfire. They were very deliberately targeted for elimination because of their reporting." Others whose deaths were documented by CPJ appear to have been singled out while covering demonstrations, or were caught in military actions or ambushes while on assignment.
"We have to protect the state from the media," said Mikhail Lesin, the head of Russia's new Ministry for the Press, Radio and Television Broadcasting, and Media Affairs, shortly after taking office in July. Coming in advance of the country's legislative and presidential elections, it was a stunning statement of Kremlin intent.
Lesin's demonization of the press was all the more striking given the crucial role that Russian media played in Boris Yeltsin's 1996 reelection campaign. Russia's powerful media conglomerates united behind the unpopular Yeltsin, boosting him back into office over a bevy of rival candidates. Three years later, those same conglomerates were bitterly divided, some backing the Kremlin and others allied with one of its chief rivals. With rare exceptions, journalists working for the battling media barons served the interests of their bosses.
New York, February 29, 2000---CPJ is investigating reports that a Russian photographer kidnapped by Chechen rebels has been murdered. ITAR-TASS news agency photographer Vladimir Yatsina, 51, had been missing since July 19, 1999, following his arrival in the Ingushetian border town of Nazran. According to reports, he was then kidnapped and taken to Chechnya.
At a Federal Security Service briefing in Moscow yesterday, Kazakh businessman Alisher Orazaliyev, who was recently released from captivity in Chechnya and claims to have been held by the same people who kidnapped Yatsina, says he witnessed the photographer's death on February 20.
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