Journalists say Russia is one
of the most dangerous beats

By David Nowak
Staff Writer
The Moscow Times
of The International Herald Tribune

A high-level delegation from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on Monday for the Russian government to step up its efforts to solve a rash of killings that it says have made this country one of the world's most dangerous for journalists.

On the eve of the delegation's arrival in Moscow, one journalist was murdered and another was severely beaten in the Far East.

The delegation, led by Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, met with Foreign Ministry officials and civil rights activists Monday and pressed the government to "reverse a grim record of impunity in journalist killings," said Nina Ognianova, program director for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the investigative journalist who was shot dead in her apartment building last October, was high on the delegation's agenda.

"Anna's execution-style murder was our immediate cause," Steiger said between meetings Monday. "We felt it was the appropriate time to share our concerns with the Russian authorities."

The Committee to Protect Journalists has teamed up with another nongovernmental organization, the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, to push for greater diligence in the investigation into journalists' deaths.

Monday's meetings took place just two days after police in Vladivostok discovered the body of Konstantin Borovko, 25, outside a local gay bar.

Borovko, who hosted a morning show on Gubernia, a leading television station in the Khabarovsk and Primorye regions, had traveled to Vladivostok to take an examination, Interfax reported Monday. He was robbed and beaten to death after leaving the club with a friend early Saturday morning, a statement posted Monday on the Prosecutor General's web site.

Investigators do not believe the attack was related to Borovko's professional activities, Interfax reported.

Last Friday in the nearby city of Partizansk, a journalist was beaten when she attempted to take photographs in the local employment office, the Prosecutor General's Office announced Monday.

Tamara Golovanova of the Partizansk newspaper Vesti was investigating employees' complaints about a company director, Interfax reported. When she began taking pictures, an unidentified man approached and told her to stop. When Golovanova refused, the man hit her several times in the face and chest.

Golovanova was hospitalized with a broken nose and a concussion. A criminal investigation is under way.

In Moscow, Steiger told reporters that the delegation's meetings with the Foreign Ministry and Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential Council on the Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights, had been "productive." He declined to elaborate.

Pamfilova could not be reached for comment Monday.

But while Steiger was optimistic, others remained doubtful that the Committee to Protect Journalists would be able to bring about real change.

"I told [the delegation] there was no point in meeting with functionaries," said Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, who met with Steiger on Sunday. "The functionaries don't want anything to change," he said.

Russia has been rated one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Russia third in the number of journalists killed on the job since 1992.

The media watchdog says 44 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992. Iraq tops the list with 93 killings; Algeria is second with 60.

Since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, 40 journalists' murders have not been satisfactorily solved, the International Federation of Journalists announced this month. The federation maintains that more than 200 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1993.

Many of the journalists targeted were either investigating government officials and business leaders or were critical of the government's actions in Chechnya.

Panfilov suggested that a better way to fight for media freedom would be to organize a show of solidarity by journalists nationwide. "But that isn't going to happen until journalists learn it is the only way forward," he said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists was scheduled to announce the results of Monday's meetings at a news conference Tuesday morning.