Journalists call on EU to put pressure on Russia over press freedom


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on 17 October called on the European Union to put the crisis of press freedom in Russia and the need for urgent action over the killing of leading journalist Anna Politkovskaya high on the agenda in this week’s summit meeting with Russian leaders in Lahti, Finland.
“With rising concern over the lack of press freedom in Russia and in the aftermath of the killing of leading journalist Anna Politkovskaya this is no time for a business as usual summit,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “European Union leaders must demand that Russia restores a degree of pluralism and free expression into the media.”
White was speaking at a Brussels meeting today where the IFJ announced that it would campaign vigorously for international action over impunity in the killing of journalists in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
The meeting was called in response to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the award-winning investigative reporter with Novaya Gazeta, who was shot outsider her apartment in Moscow on October 7. She was the 13th leading journalist to be assassinated since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power.
Her death came just a few days before the second anniversary, on October 20, of the unpunished assassination of Veiranika Charkasava, an acclaimed reporter and symbol of media freedom in Belarus and follows the sixth anniversary last month of the killing of Gyorgy Gongadze, an investigative journalist who was killed for exposing corruption at the heart of politics in Ukraine.
White said that European Union leaders gathering for this Friday’s informal summit should not let economic self-interest and fears of losing access to supplies of Russian gas to let Russia off the hook over its worsening media situation.
“No-one says that Russia’s leaders pulled the trigger that killed Politkovskaya, but their neglect of democratic rights and press freedom is undeniable,” said White. “They have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation inside Russian media in which dissent and expression of critical opinion has become almost impossible.”
The meeting called for action to counter impunity. Speakers included Marianne Mikko, a socialist member of the European Parliament from Estonia; Nikolay Venediktov, a reporter with the Russian news agency Novosti; Rostislav Demchuk, from Channel 5, in Ukraine; and Zhanna Litvina, Chair, of the Belarus Association of Journalists, a winner of the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov Human Rights Prize.
“The killing of journalists in the region is tragic evidence of the lack of respect for human rights,” said White, “governments must set standards of pluralism and respect for basic rights so that journalists are free to be independent and professional. They can start by delivering on promises to find the killers of our colleagues. There will never be press freedom so long as impunity reigns.”

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