April 16, 2024

Press Freedom

Russian Federation

Russia July 26, 2006

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

Your Excellency:

We are concerned and dismayed that you apparently regard our letters, along with protests from other defenders of media freedom, as some sort of sinister plot. In an interview with Canadian Television (CTV), you are quoted as saying, “In my view, this constant criticism on issues relating to democracy, freedom of the media and so on is being used as a tool to intervene in Russia ‘s domestic and foreign policy in order to exert influence.” We want to assure you that we have no interest in meddling in the substance of your policies, foreign or domestic.

The only influence we hope to exert is to persuade you to return to the democratic values that you yourself have expressed, and that previous Russian governments have endorsed. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an excellent statement of these values, and our particular concern is summed up in its Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It is discouraging to see the increasingly repressive trend in recent months in Russia ‘s treatment of the media. At the recent G-8 summit in St. Petersburg , Boris Reitschuster, a correspondent of the German magazine Focus , was attacked by the police as he was photographing the arrests of four protesters of the conference. His camera was confiscated and the photographs were deleted before it was returned. Also, Maksym Butkevych, a Ukrainian television reporter, was arrested while filming police breaking up a rally by about 50 protesters. He was sentenced to three days in prison for “resisting police.” And two German photography students, Eike Korfhage and Henning Wallerius, were arrested while trying to cover the protests. Initially accused of participating in the protests, they were later charged with urinating in public, sentenced to ten days in jail, then released and deported. These violations of Article 19 seemed especially blatant since they occurred in the full blaze of international attention surrounding the summit.

But the events of the summit are clearly part of a long trend. Early in July, a British correspondent, Thomas de Waal of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, became the latest of some 30 foreign journalists who have been denied visas to enter Russia , on vague grounds of security. The apparent reason was his past coverage of events in Chechnya . Under legal pressure from Moscow , the Russian-language broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty have been deleted from almost all Russian radio stations outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg . And we join our colleagues in the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders in condemning the bill, recently passed by the Duma, that broadens the definition of extremist activity to include media criticism of state officials. In the name of the war on terror, this bill would subject journalists to as much as three years in prison for entirely legitimate reporting. A similar bill passed by the lower house would set tight new restrictions on news coverage of antiterrorist operations. We urge you to reject both measures.

Your Excellency, as you recall, we applauded your promises, shortly after taking office, to turn Russia to the course of democracy and to respect media freedom. And less than a year ago, on September 1, 2005, your first deputy spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, wrote us: “I would like to assure you that maintaining freedom of mass media and developing it as a pre-requisite for creating a democratic state is among top priorities for the leadership of our country and the focus of attention of the Russian authorities at all levels.” The Overseas Press Club of America has defended press freedom not just in Russia , but in countries around the world for more than 65 years. We have no interest in meddling in Russia ‘s affairs. It is your own original policy that we urge you to follow.

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

Respectfully yours,
Larry Martz
Norman A. 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

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


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


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

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, Russia

Fax: (011.7. 095) 937-3393

E-mail: l.berry@imedia.ru


Aleksander Vitalyevich Stukalin


Kommersant Daily

4 Vrubelya Street

Moscow, Russia

Fax: (011.7.095) 943-9728

E-mail: kommersant@kommersant.ru


Tatyana Petrovna Koshkaryova


Nezavisimaya Gazeta

13 Myasnitskaya Street, building.3

Moscow, Russia

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, Russia

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

Editor-in-Chief, Vedomosti

16 Vyborgskaya Street

Moscow 125212, Russia

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