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Journalist Groups Doubt Putin’s Pledge to Bring Polikovskaya’s Killers to Justice

AFP | October 11 2006

International watchdog Reporters Without Borders doubts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to bring killers of the famous Russian journalist to justice.

Putin vowed on to hunt down the killers of journalist Anna Politkovskaya Tuesday, saying he had information the killers wanted to whip up anti-Russian feelings across the world. “We must be clear that it was a dreadful and unacceptable crime which cannot be allowed to go unpunished,” Putin said in his first public remarks on the killing.

“The long silence before he (Putin) spoke reinforces our concern about the way the Russian police and judicial authorities will conduct their investigation,” the press freedom organization’s statement says.

“It would be unthinkable to let the Russian police and judicial authorities handle this case on their own. They have already demonstrated their inability to solve the murders of journalists who angered the authorities. The still unsolved murder of Paul Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes, in July 2004 is an obvious example. Politkovskaya was the symbol of Russian conscience standing up to an autocratic government that gags journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Her condemnation of state terror in Chechnya and her unwavering commitment to press freedom made her a beacon of independent journalism in Russia. By eliminating her, by silencing her in this most brutal of ways, they have murdered Russia’s democratic conscience,” the statement says.

International media and rights watchdogs were quick to condemn the killing.

Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, the chairman in office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), called Politkovskaya “one of Russia’s most outstanding investigative journalists and political commentators.” He called upon Russian authorities to track down those responsible as soon as possible, Radio Free Europe reported.

Aidan White, the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a media watchdog based in Brussels, told RFE/RL that Politkovskaya’s slaying was clearly a “targeted assassination,” and he called on the government to “act immediately to bring the killers to justice.”

“It’s very clear to us that when a journalist of such a reputation can be killed in this way, it reflects on the state of lawlessness that is threatening to overwhelm the whole of Russian journalism,” White said.

White called Politkovskaya the “bravest of a new breed of brave Russian reporters.”

In New York, the Committee to Protect Journalists described the killing as a “devastating development for journalism in Russia.” Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said, “Russia is a violent country and violent to journalists.”

The killing was also condemned by rights watchdog Amnesty International, and by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who is also a shareholder in “Novaya gazeta.” The U.S. State Department said the United States was “shocked and profoundly saddened” by the murder, and called on the Russian government to conduct a thorough investigation.

Politkovskaya had worked for the biweekly Novaya Gazeta since 1999. She was supposed to hand in an article, with photos, about torture in Chechnya for today’s edition. It never arrived at the newspaper. In her last book, “Russia under Putin,” which was published this year in France, she not only criticised atrocities in Chechnya but also corruption and human rights violations in Russia.

Internationally acclaimed for her courage and professionalism, Politkovskaya, 48, was found dead in her apartment building in the centre of Moscow on the afternoon of 7 October. She had been shot several times. Tomorrow`s Politkovskaya rally is being organised by the France-Russia Association of Journalists, Studies Without Borders, Reporters Without Borders and all of Politkovskaya`s friends and supporters in France.


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