Putin Honors Beketov

The New York Times reports: Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin has bestowed an annual state prize on a muckraking journalist who was beaten nearly to death after investigating official corruption in Khimki, a Moscow suburb. The case of the journalist, Mikhail Beketov, has become a symbol Russia’s culture of impunity.

The OPC Freedom of the Press Committee has written a letter to Mr. Putin, writing in part: “the announcement that Mikhail Beketov will be a recipient of the Prime Minister’s annual award for excellence in journalism seems to us an exercise in cynicism and hypocrisy, in the absence of any apparent effort to find and punish the thugs who nearly beat Mr. Beketov to death in 2008. At the same time, we applaud the courage of the journalists who nominated him and voted him the award.”

Beketov, who suffered severe brain damage in the attack and can no longer walk or speak in sentences, was one of 10 recipients of an annual award for excellence in print journalism. Each winner receives a cash prize of one million rubles (about $32,000).

Past prizes have gone to journalists from publications that are generally supportive of the Kremlin. By giving the award to Mr. Beketov and to several other high-profile journalists who regularly criticize the government, Mr. Putin appeared to be addressing a fundamental complaint about his tenure: that it has become increasingly dangerous to challenge the authorities in print.

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