April 12, 2024

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Russia February 6, 2006

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

Your Excellency:

We write to condemn your continuing campaign to stifle dissent of all kinds in Russia . Your recent actions make a mockery of your assurances, given early in your administration and repeated to us in October, 2005, by your spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, that your government intends to nurture freedom of the press as a necessary part of its development as a democratic state.

The Overseas Press Club of America, an independent organization that has been defending press freedom around the world for more than 65 years, is especially dismayed by the conviction 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. Before it stopped publishing in September, 2005 for financial reasons, Pravo-Zashchita was widely regarded as one of the few reliable sources of independent news about Chechnya . It is ironic that Dmitriyevsky was found guilty of “inciting inter-ethnic hatred and offending human dignity” because his newspaper published interviews with Chechen separatist leaders in which they appealed for peace talks. Dmitriyevsky has been given a suspended sentence of two years. Perhaps more to the point, under your new law aimed at non-governmental organizations (NGOs), he could be forbidden any role in RCFS as a person “convicted and incarcerated by the decision of a court of law.” This would effectively shut down RCFS, a small human rights organization financed in part by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy and by grants from the European Union and Norway .

The new law, which you signed on January 10, gives the Justice Ministry’s Federal Registration Service broad authority to close NGOs for engaging in activities that are counter to the “political independence of the Russian Federation ” or that violate the constitution. This measure has triggered outrage among civil rights groups around the world. It seems obvious that you are intent on silencing any voices that might object to your government’s policies and introduce genuine political dialogue in Russia .

Along the same lines, the Committee to Protect Journalists has recently uncovered two cases in which your government is using criminal libel investigations to repress independent news reporting. In the first, prosecutors in the city of Yoshkar-Ola in the autonomous republic of Mary El opened a criminal libel case against Mark Aron, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper, ” Vo! ” Aron has said that they are investigating an article that accused the local agriculture minister and other officials of participating in a drunken brawl during a business trip to Moscow . The second investigation targets Arseny Makhlov, founder of the local weekly, Dvornik, in the western city of Kaliningrad . Makhlov said the case was filed in retaliation for articles criticizing a prosecutor for closing a fraud case against a government official.

Your Excellency, if public officials have been defamed, civil penalties are surely adequate to recompense them and punish the offenders. Criminal libel laws serve only to stifle dissent and curb press freedom. We have no choice but to conclude that that is your intention, but we would welcome proof that we are wrong. You could provide that by acting to repeal the criminal libel law and last month’s law aimed at NGOs, and we would welcome an appellate court reversal of Dmitriyevsky’s conviction.

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

Fax: (202) 298-5735

Ambassador Andrey Ivanovich Denisov

Permanent Représentative

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


Fax: (011.7.095) 728-5090

Aleksey Kirillovich Simonov


Glasnost Defense Foundation

4 Zubovskiy Blvd., # 432

Moscow 119021


Fax: (011.7.095) 201-4947

E-mail: simonov@gdf.ru

Lynn Berry


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


Kommersant Daily

4 Vrubelya Street



Fax: (011.7.095) 943-9728

E-mail: kommersant@kommersant.ru

Tatyana Petrovna Koshkaryova


Nezavisimaya Gazeta

13 Myasnitskaya Street, building.3



Fax: (011.7. 095) 981-5434

E-mail: office@ng.ru

Vladimir Alekseyevich Borodin



18 Tverskaya Street, building 1

Moscow 127994


Fax: (011.7.095) 514-0223

E-mail: alekseeva@izvestia.ru

Pavel Nikolayevich Gusev


Moskovskiy Komsomolets

7 Ulitsa 1905 Goda

Moscow 123995


Fax: (011.7.095) 259-4639

E-mail: berestovenko@mk.ru

Robert Munro


The St.Petersburg Times

4 Isakiyevskaya square

St.Petersburg 190000


Tel/fax: (011.7.812) 325-6080

E-mail: munro@sptimes.ru

Tatyana Gennadyevna Lysova



16 Vyborgskaya Street

Moscow 125212


Tel: (011.7.095) 232-3200/ 956-3458

Fax: (011.7.095) 956-0716

E-mail: vedomosti@imedia.ru

Dmitriy Andreyevich Muratov


Novaya Gazeta

3 Potapovskiy pereulok

Moscow 101990


Fax: (011.7.095) 923-6888

E-mail: gazeta@novayagazeta.ru