Pervasive violence against journalists in Russia

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

His Excellency Georgiy Mamedov, The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Canada
Embassy of the Russian Federation
285 Charlotte St
Ottawa, ON
K1N 8L5

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is deeply troubled by the level of violence and harassment that has been directed at journalists working in Russia. Since 2000, the number of violent offences against journalists has been on the rise. Attacks have ranged from the destruction of journalists’ equipment, to much more serious transgressions including assault and murder. Dagestan, in the Northern Caucasus region, has been particularly dangerous as 11 journalists have been killed since 2008. In the case of a 2009 “death list,” which named Dagestani journalists Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev and Khadjimurad Kamalov amongst its targets, protection that was allegedly requested by then Dagestani President Mukhu Aliyev never materialized. As detailed in a report by Article 19, Akhmednabiyev and Kamalov were subsequently murdered, in July 2013 and December 2011 respectively. Their killers have yet to be brought to justice.

Journalists must be able to operate without fear of persecution. Without protection from credible death threats, journalists may resort to avoiding controversial topics for fear of violent retribution. A healthy press is essential for establishing a transparent dialogue between citizens and those in power. A lack of accountability for violence against journalists fosters a culture of impunity, which silences free expression – a fundamental human right – to the detriment of access to information and substantive democracy.

As the Sochi 2014 Olympics draw nearer, journalists will be travelling to Russia in increasing numbers. CJFE strongly urges the Russian government to take steps to provide greater security to journalists, particularly those who have been subjected to death threats, and to ensure that those who commit violent offences against journalists are identified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. CJFE also expresses its hope that the recently introduced bill, increasing sentences for violent crimes against journalists, will become law.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Mr. John Kur, Ambassador of Canada to the Russian Federation
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs