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SPJ condemns attacks on Russian journalists


Hagit Limor, SPJ President, (513) 852-4012,
Andrew M. Scott, SPJ Communications Coordinator,(317) 927-8000 ext. 215,

SPJ President Hagit Limor and Ricardo Sandoval, chairman of the SPJ International Committee, have released an open letter condemning recent attacks on Russian journalists. The letter is below.

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The Society of Professional Journalists joins its Russian colleagues in condemnation of a number of recent, brutal attacks on Moscow-area journalists whose only wrongs appear to be writing probative articles on a controversy over construction of a new highway that will destroy part of a prized forest.

These incidents have come to worldwide attention after distribution of a video showing the brutal attack on Oleg Kashin, an independent journalist who is now in an induced coma. The attack on Kashin followed beatings of another journalist in 2008 and an assault on a vocal environmental activist. These incidents sparked protests and a widespread letter-writing campaign this week by Russian journalists, as well as a story in The New York Times that described the series of attacks on journalists.

What’s become clear is that in today’s democratic Russia, there remains a dangerous lack of tolerance of an inquisitive, independent media.

Journalists around the globe – even in the United States and other mature democracies – today face a variety of threats because of their work. In many of those nations, however, journalists don’t have to go to work each day fearing that they are one story away from a physical beating, or worse.

In Russia, 17 journalists have been killed since 2000 because of their news work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In a country considered one of the most dangerous in which to be a reporter, dozens more have been injured in assaults, while numerous independent publications or web bloggers have endured interference with their Internet portals.

Over the past century, SPJ has worked to protect journalists in the United States and to speak out on behalf of colleagues in other countries.

We abhor the attacks on journalists in Russia and call upon the federal government to use its considerable police investigative ability and authority to bring to justice those who have harmed journalists. We applaud the government’s decision to continue investigating the 2008 beating of Mikhali Beketov of the weekly newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda, who lost a leg after the attack and suffered brain damage. We welcome the federal government’s new promise to re-open the investigation of the unsolved killing in 2000 of Igor Domnikov of Novaya Gazeta. And, we are encouraged by the new assurance of President Dimitry Medvedev that authorities will search for the “attackers, regardless of (their) position, place in society or accomplishments.”

SPJ, through its International Committee, stands with its Russian colleagues and, along with other journalism organizations in the United States and abroad, pledges to maintain a public spotlight on the Russian government’s actions in the wake of these attacks.

Hagit Limor, President, Society of Professional Journalists

Ricardo Sandoval Palos, Chairman, SPJ International Committee

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