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Reporter Without Borders
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Russia November 17, 2006
H.E. Vladimir Putin
Fax: (011.7.095) 206-6277/ 5173
It is heartening that Russia ‘s Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for the two suspects in the assassination of Paul Klebnikov, editor of Forbes Russia . We write to urge, however, that investigation of all aspects of this killing must continue.
Many questions remain unanswered, especially the vital issue of who ordered Klebnikov’s murder. It is by no means established that the accused, Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev, actually carried it out. They were acquitted by a jury after a four-month trial whose proceedings were secret. Only a public, thoroughly transparent trial can establish the facts with credibility and re-assure Klebnikov’s friends and family, and the people of Russia , that justice has been done.
The Overseas Press Club of America, which has defended press freedom around the world for more than 65 years, remains dismayed by your government’s continuing harassment and repression of journalists in your country. We were appalled recently by the vicious attack by police in Nazran on a group of demonstrators peacefully protesting last month’s murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. According to Human Rights Watch, the group was gathered near the eternal flame in the center of Nazran on October 16 th when police officers began harassing, shoving and actually beating them. A journalist and five representatives of human-rights organizations were detained.
We were also outraged by the closing on October 13 th of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), a human-rights group in Nizhny Novgorod . The closing was rationalized under your recent law restricting non-government organizations. The RCFS publishes an online newspaper, Pravo-Zashchita (Rights Defense), one of the few reliable sources of news on Chechnya . It is needed more than ever now that Politkovskaya’s courageous reporting is no longer available. Ostensibly, the closing was ordered by a regional court because RCFS director Stanislav Dmitriyevsky had been convicted of “inciting ethnic hatred” (evidently because he published comments by Chechen rebel leaders calling for peace talks).
As Dmitriyevsky said, “We are witnessing an intensified campaign of shuttering every single voice that has covered the Chechen conflict independently.” Your Excellency, we have no choice but to agree.
In another incident, the newspaper, Orlovskiye Novosti, in the Oryol region has been given an official warning by the regional prosecutor for publishing a photograph of Your Excellency with the region’s governor, Yegor Stroyev. The governor was waving to someone behind your back, and apparently making what appeared to be an impolite gesture. The prosecutor found this insulting to you, and warned the newspaper that it will be charged with a crime if it publishes any similar “insults” in the future.
We would dismiss such a story as a ludicrous over reaction by a petty official if it did not so neatly echo the case of Vladimir Rakhmankov, the editor of the on-line newspaper, Cursiv, who was fined 20,000 rubles on October 24 th for insulting you. Rakhmankov’s crime was a satirical article on your efforts to increase Russia ‘s birthrate headlined “Putin as Russia ‘s Phallic Symbol.” As we wrote to you when Rakhmankov was charged, it is surely beneath the dignity of a head of state to take umbrage at such a lame jest. Criminal charges for satire seem like using a howitzer to kill a mosquito. They also qualify as repression of free expression under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the most serious terms, Your Excellency, we protest.
With the new trial for the accused killers of Paul Klebnikov soon to begin we can think of no better way of refurbishing your reputation as a progressive supporter of a free press than to hear you speak loudly against the tyrannies, large and small, now so commonplace for our Russian colleagues.
Thank you for your attention. We await your reply.
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
Mikhail Yefimovich Fradkov
2 Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya
Fax: (011.7.095) 206-4622
Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Yuriy V. 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
Ambassador Andrey Ivanovich Denisov
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations
136 East 67th Street
New York , NY 10021
Fax: (212) 628-0252
Aleksey Kirillovich Simonov
Glasnost Defense Foundation
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Fax: (011.7.095) 201-4947
The Moscow Times
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Fax: (011.7. 095) 937-3393
Aleksander Vitalyevich Stukalin
4 Vrubelya Street
Fax: (011.7.095) 943-9728
Alexander R. Vershbow
U.S. Ambassador to Russia
Embassy of the United States of America
8 Bolshoy Devyatinskiy Pereulok
Fax: (011.7.095) 728-5090
Tatyana Petrovna Koshkaryova
13 Myasnitskaya Street , Bldg..3
Fax: (011.7. 095) 981-5434
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Pavel Nikolayevich Gusev
7 Ulitsa 1905 Goda
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Fax: (011.7.095) 923-6888