April 16, 2024

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

OPC Applauds Russian Journalists Who Nominated Beketov

H.E. Dmitri Medvedev
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.495) 206.6277/ 5173

H.E. Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister
Russian Federation
Fax:  (011.7.495) 206.4622, 205.4219

Your Excellencies:

Yesterday’s announcement that Mikhail Beketov will be a recipient of the Prime Minister’s annual award for excellence in journalism seems to us an exercise in cynicism and hypocrisy in the absence of any apparent effort to find and punish the thugs who nearly beat Mr. Beketov to death in 2008.  At the same time, we applaud the courage of the journalists who nominated him and voted him the award.

Mr. Beketov, editor-in-chief of a small and vocal opposition paper in the Moscow suburbs, was the first journalist to call attention to official plans to raze a large portion of the Khimki forest for a new highway.  After he wrote about corruption in the case, his car was burned and he reported threats on his life.  On November 13, 2008, he was beaten so savagely that he suffered brain damage.  A leg had to be amputated, and his hands were so damaged that he could no longer use them to type.  We understand that he is still confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak in complete sentences.

To date, his assailants have gone unpunished, and we know of no efforts by your government to find out who ordered this crime.  Mr. Beketov still faces slander charges by the mayor of Khimki, Vladimir Strelchenko.  Under these circumstances, we find his award for courageous reporting is the epitome of bare-faced cynicism.

But it was both courageous and clever of Dmitri A. Muratov, editor of the weekly, Novaya Gazeta, to nominate Mr. Beketov for the award and thus attract renewed attention both to his suffering and to the impunity of his attackers.  According to The New York Times, fully 90 percent of the journalists on the award jury supported the nomination, which was also an act of courage.  Even more bravely, another reward recipient, Sergei Parkhomenko, editor-in-chief of the magazine, Around the World, said he will not accept the honor, which would also give him 1 million rubles (about US$32,000).

We remain hopeful that you will finally give this case the full investigation that it demands.  And we remind you once again that the world will be carefully watching for any retaliation against Mr. Muratov, Mr. Parkhomenko, or the jurors on the panel.

Respectfully yours,
Kevin McDermott
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee


H.E. Dmitri Medvedev
The Kremlin
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.495) 206.6277/ 5173

H.E. Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister
Government Offices
2 Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya
Russian Federation
Fax:  (011.7.495) 206.4622, 205.4219

H.E. Sergey V. Lavrov
Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Moscow  121200
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.495) 244.3448

H.E. Sergey I. Kislyak
Ambassador of Russia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20007
Fax:  (202) 298.5735

Ambassador Vitaly Churkin
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
136 East 67th Street
New York, NY  10021
Fax: (212) 628.0252

H.E. John Beyrle
U.S. Ambassador to Russia
Embassy of the United States of America
8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy
Moscow  121099
Fax:  (011.7.495) 728.5090

Andrey Vitalyevich Vasilyev
Kommersant Daily
4 Vrubelya Street
Moscow, Russia

Aleksey K. Simonov
Glasnost Defense Foundation
4 Zubovskiy Boulevard, # 432
Moscow  119021
Fax: (011.7.495) 637.4947

Andrew McChesney
The Moscow Times
Ul. Polkovaya, 3, build. 1
Moscow  127018

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C.  20520