April 12, 2024

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Russia December 2, 2005

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

Your Excellency:

The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has been defending press freedom around the world for more than 65 years, continues to be dismayed by your campaign of repressing independent journalists in Russia.

In the latest incident, Olga Romanova, a presenter for Ren-TV, the only remaining major Russian channel carrying news not influenced by your government, was blocked by security guards from entering the studio for her regular program last Thursday, November 24. Ren-TV, founded as an independent channel and known for its incisive coverage, was bought this year by a consortium with connections to your government. According to The New York Times, the new chief executive, Alexander Ordzhonikidze, said the new owners planned no change in the channel’s format. We do not know what Ms. Romanova was planning to say last Thursday, but she said she had also been prevented recently from broadcasting a report that charges had been dropped against Alexander Ivanov, the son of Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov, who was driving a car that hit and killed a pedestrian. On November 28, the station announced that Ms. Romanova’s program would be canceled for three months while she develops a new program. She has said she will take the case to court as a test of journalists’ rights in Russia. Your Constitution does guarantee freedom of speech and of the press.

We note that your predecessor, former President Mikhail Gorbachev, has called the silencing of Olga Romanova “a sign that the last channel that remained independent and impartial in covering events, at least to some extent, has been lost. “The station has denied that there were any political motivations at work, but we fear that Mr. Gorbachev is right.

In another case, we must join the Committee to Protect Journalists and other organizations in protesting the decision to conduct a secret trial of the two Chechen men accused of killing Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov. There is a great deal that remains murky about this murder. For instance, Paul Klebnikov’s brothers, Peter and Michael, have cast doubt on your government’s assertion that his killing was ordered by the Chechen separatist leader Hodj-Akhmed Nukhayev. In addition, Faik Sadreddinov, a Moscow notary accused of involvement in the murder, has said he has seen a report from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation saying that Paul Klebnikov had uncovered links between Chechen separatists and leading Russian political figures, and was preparing to publish their names. Only a transparent public trial of the two suspects, Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev, can dispel suspicions and persuade your people that justice has been done. If state secrets must be discussed in the testimony, that part of the trial can be closed and the transcript sealed.

Finally, we must protest the intimidation and harassment of Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, director of the human rights organization Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), and editor-in-chief of its newspaper, Pravo-Zashchita (Rights Defense), in retaliation for his newspaper’s reporting on the war in Chechnya. Dmitriyevsky has been charged with the criminal offense of inciting ethnic and religious hatred for publishing statements by two Chechen rebel leaders calling for peace talks and condemning civil rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya. If convicted, he could be sentenced to five years in prison. Dmitriyevsky and a colleague, Oksana Chelysheva, have received death threats, and the RCFS is facing what seem clearly trumped-up charges of criminal tax evasion.

Your Excellency, we urge you again to drop your campaign against independent journalists. We hope you will use your influence to make the Klebnikov trial open to media coverage to the fullest extent possible, and to instruct the regional prosecutor’s office in Nizhny Novgorod to drop its cases against Stanislav Dmitriyevsky and RCFS. And we call on you to repeat publicly your assurances, given early in your administration and repeated to us in October by your spokesman Dmitri Peskov, that your government intends to nurture freedom of the press as a necessary part of its development of a democratic state. After the record of the past few years, including the killing of at least fourteen journalists with no retribution, those assurances seem increasingly hollow.

Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a continuing dialogue.
Larry Martz
Norman Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee






Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov

Prime Minister

Government Offices

2 Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya


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

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Ambassador Andrey Ivanovich Denisov

Permanent Représentative

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

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New York , NY 10021

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Mr. Dmitri Peskov

First Deputy Spokesman of the President of the Russian Federation

c/o Embassy of the Russian Federation

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Washington , DC 20007

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Alexander R. Vershbow

U.S. Ambassador to Russia

Embassy of the United States of America

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Moscow 121099


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Glasnost Defense Foundation

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E-mail: simonov@gdf.ru


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The Moscow Times

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Nezavisimaya Gazeta

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Robert Munro


The St.Petersburg Times

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E-mail: munro@sptimes.ru


Tatyana Gennadyevna Lysova



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Novaya Gazeta

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