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Russia June 7, 2005
H.E. Vladimir Putin
Fax: (011.7.095) 206-6277 or 5173
It was gratifying to read press accounts of your meeting on May 26, 2005, with Alvaro Gil-Robles, the commissioner for human rights of the Council of Europe, including your promise to work to improve human rights in Russia . You said the commissioner’s most recent report on Russia was in some sections “quite a strict document,” but said it was “in my view quite objective.” As an independent organization that has defended press freedom around the world for 65 years, the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) hopes that you will pay special attention to the sections of Mr. Gil-Robles’s report that deal with guaranteeing media independence and respecting freedom of the press.
We were also encouraged by the report on June 4, 2005, that a third suspect has been arrested in the murder last July 9 of Paul Klebnikov , editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine. It is good to know that the investigation is still active, and has not ended with the arrest of two Chechens, Musa Vakhayev and Kazbek Dukuzov. However, we hope the identity of the third suspect will soon be disclosed, and that a public trial of all three will soon demonstrate solid proof, if it exists, of both their guilt and motives for the murder.
In light of your pledge to Mr. Gil-Robles, it was distinctly not encouraging to read that your police and Federal Security Service (FSB) agents had detained three Polish journalists who were trying to film a documentary on life in war-torn Chechnya . According to the Associated Press (AP), Mariusz Pilis, Marcin Mamon and Tomasz Glowacki , of the Polish state television station, TVP, were held and interrogated for 14 hours in Nazran, Ingushetia. The police reportedly said that the visas and press accreditation that the three had obtained were no longer valid. Agents confiscated 18 videotapes the crew had previously filmed in Chechnya , Pilis said. Police also took the crew’s papers, television equipment, reporter’s notes, telephone contacts, and film.
Your Excellency, we join Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in condemning this incident as a gross violation of press freedom and a violation of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We understand that it seems inconvenient to your government that the conflict in Chechnya should be widely reported, but we join our colleagues and Mr. Gil-Robles in insisting that if Russia wants to be accepted in the community of democratic nations, this is precisely the kind of reporting that must be permitted.
Last week’s news that Izvestia has been bought by Gazprom, the government-controlled natural gas monopoly, also came as a disappointment. In light of your recent policies suppressing independent media, it was natural that cynics immediately suspected that this purchase was a way to quiet one of Russia ‘s most outspoken and respected newspapers. We can only hope that in coming months Izvestia will disprove these suspicions by continuing to speak out as independently as ever. We will be watching closely.
Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a reply.
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
Yuriy Victorovich Ushakov
Ambassador of Russia to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington , DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735
Ambassador Sergey Victorovich Lavrov
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
136 East 67 th Street
New York , NY 10021
Fax: (212) 628-0252
Glasnost Defence Foundation
Fax: (011.7.095) 201-4947
Alexander R. Vershbow
Ambassador of the U.S. to Russia
Embassy of the United States of America
8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy Pereulok
Fax: (011.7.095) 728-5090
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Fax: (011.7.095) 230-21
Mikhail Mikhaylovich Kasyanov
Fax: (011.7.095) 206-4622
The News Editor
The Moscow Times
666 Fifth Ave., Suite 572
New York , NY 10103
Fax: (011.7.095) 937-3393
Fax: (011.7.095) 925-2161
Robin Munro The News Editor
St. Petersburg Times Fax: (011.7.095) 230-2303
Fax: (011. 7.812) 325-6080