December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Russia April 21, 2006

H.E. Vladimir Putin
President
The Kremlin
Moscow
Russian Federation
Fax: (011.7.095) 206-6277/ 5173
 

Your Excellency:
 

Since we last wrote, a little more than a month ago, three more serious incidents of abuse of press freedom in your country have come to our attention. We write to underscore our previous observations that your government is moving in the wrong direction and forfeiting your claims to be developing a democratic society.
 

The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has sought to protect journalists around the world for more than 65 years, was appalled by the Orwellian detention and interrogation of Kelly McEvers, a freelance American journalist, in the southern republic of Dagestan in late March and early April. McEvers, a fellow of the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins University , had been researching Islam and terrorism in Dagestan . She says she was detained and subjected to 26 hours of questioning over four days, that her apartment was searched for six hours, and that investigators threatened to charge her with engaging in “terrorist activity” for allegedly having information about an ambush against a Russian military convoy in the Nozhai Yurt district of Chechnya in 2005. Her computer, notebooks, computer disks and other tools of her trade were confiscated and still have not been returned, and she believes the accusation was a pretext to identify and harass the people she had interviewed. Initially, she was not allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy or a lawyer, and her interrogators refused in the first days to tell her why she was being questioned or what they meant to do with her. Such treatment is totally out of line with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right . . . to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium and regardless of frontiers.”
 

We were also dismayed by the arrest on March 22 of Boris Stomakhin, editor of the independent Moscow monthly newspaper, Radikalnaya Politika , on charges dating to 2003, that his newspaper incited ethnic hatred in articles about the war in Chechnya . He was put on an international wanted list after he failed to appear for trial in June, 2004, and according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, fled to Ukraine and appealed for asylum. When it was denied, he returned to Moscow . Trying to elude police who were attempting to arrest him, he fell from the fourth-floor window of his apartment on March 21, was taken by ambulance to a hospital, was arrested there the next day and is being held in Matroskaya Tishina prison. According to CPJ, officials in the Moscow prosecutor’s office declined to say which articles in Radikalnaya Politika had triggered the initial charges. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that your government’s real grievance against Stomakhin was his postings on the Web site, Kavkaz-Center, where he has strongly criticized Russian authorities for human rights abuses in Chechnya . We remind you again that under Article 19, he has every right to do so.

 
Finally, Reporters Without Borders reports that your government is harassing three of Russia ‘s leading news Web sites, accusing them of spreading extremist ideas. RSF says that Pravda.ru was temporarily closed down; Bankfax.ru is being prosecuted; and Gazeta.ru has received a public warning. As RSF has commented, “The authorities already control most of the traditional media and now it seems they are trying to get control of the Internet, using the need to combat extremism as an argument for censoring the news websites that are still independent.”
 

Your Excellency, it is not too late to reverse course and demonstrate that you accept the principles of press freedom in an open society. We urge you to do so.
 

Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a reply.
 

Respectfully yours,
Larry Martz
Norman A. Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee

 

cc:

Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov

Prime Minister

Government Offices

2 Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya

Moscow

Russian Federation

Fax: (011.7.095) 206-4622

 

Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov

Foreign Minister

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Moscow 121200

Russian Federation

 

Yuriy Viktorovich Ushakov

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 Andrey Ivanovich Denisov

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

136 East 67 th Street

New York , NY 10021

Fax: (212) 628-0252

 

Mr. Dmitri Peskov

First Deputy Spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation

c/o Embassy of the Russian Federation

2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

Washington , DC 20007

Fax: (202) 298-5735

Alexander R. Vershbow

U.S. Ambassador to Russia

Embassy of the United States of America

8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy Pereulok

Moscow 121099

Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 728-5090

 

Aleksey Kirillovich Simonov

President

Glasnost Defense Foundation

4 Zubovskiy Blvd., # 432

Moscow 119021

Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 201-4947

E-mail: simonov@gdf.ru

 

Lynn Berry

Editor-in-Chief

The Moscow Times

16 Vyborgskaya Street , building 4

Moscow 125212

Fax: (011.7. 095) 937-3393

E-mail: l.berry@imedia.ru

              

Aleksander Vitalyevich Stukalin

Editor-in-Chief

Kommersant Daily

4 Vrubelya Street

Moscow

Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 943-9728

E-mail: kommersant@kommersant.ru

 

Tatyana Petrovna Koshkaryova

Editor-in-Chief

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

13 Myasnitskaya Street , building.3

Moscow

Russia

Fax: (011.7. 095) 981-5434

E-mail: office@ng.ru

 

Vladimir Alekseyevich Borodin

Editor-in-Chief

Izvestiya

18 Tverskaya Street , building 1

Moscow 127994

Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 514-0223

E-mail: alekseeva@izvestia.ru

Pavel Nikolayevich Gusev

Editor-in-Chief

Moskovskiy Komsomolets

7 Ulitsa 1905 Goda

Moscow 123995

Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 259-4639

E-mail: berestovenko@mk.ru

 

Robert Munro

Editor-in-Chief

The St.Petersburg Times

4 Isakiyevskaya square

St.Petersburg 190000

Russia

Tel/fax: (011.7.812) 325-6080

E-mail: munro@sptimes.ru

 

Tatyana Gennadyevna Lysova

Editor-in-Chief, Vedomosti

16 Vyborgskaya Street

Moscow 125212, Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 956-0716

E-mail: vedomosti@imedia.ru

 

Dmitriy Andreyevich Muratov

Editor-in-Chief

Novaya Gazeta

3 Potapovskiy pereulok

Moscow 101990

Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 923-6888

E-mail: gazeta@novayagazeta.r