IFJ Warns of Threat to Democracy After Killers Target Business Journalist in Russia

The International Federation of Journalists today called on the Russian government to enforce transparency rules on the business community and to crackdown on criminal targeting of journalists following the shooting of American journalist Paul Klebnikov at the weekend.


“Democracy in Russia will never survive as long as journalists are being targeted and big-business refuses to come out of the shadows,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary in Brussels today.


The murder of Klebnikov, editor of the Russia edition of Forbes, is widely thought to be a result of his investigative reporting of the country’s business elite. He was noted for exposing the business deals of Boris Berezovsky, a former influential figure in Kremlin politics.


“This brutal murder shows just how far Russia is from embracing the basic principles of democratic life,” said White. “Scrutiny of those in power is what journalism is all about. If this cannot be done safely there is no democracy worth speaking of.”


The IFJ says powerful business groups should be forced to recognise that democracy requires full transparency about their affairs and independent journalistic scrutiny.


“This was a targeted assassination by shadowy criminals on behalf of so-called legitimate business interests,” said White. “It is the work of people who have no interest in democracy.”


The IFJ is supporting the protests of the Russian Union of Journalists over the shooting and is calling for fresh action from the authorities to find the killers and to provide more protection for independent media.


Earlier this year the IFJ called for the need to expose intimidation and threats that have created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear over the reporting of Russia’s most powerful political and corporate elite, following the launch of a court case on behalf of journalist Veniamin Striga in the European Court of Human Rights by journalists working with the Society Against Terror and Corruption (SATCOR) in May.


The IFJ recalls the brutal killing ten years ago in October 1994 of Dmitry Kholodov, a reporter for the independent newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets who had been carrying out investigations in the Defense Ministry and was due to give testimony to the lower house of Parliament on military corruption. It took six years to go before the courts and no conviction has yet been made.


Close to 90 journalists and media staff have been killed in Russia in the last ten years, many of them targeted for their professional work in revealing political corruption.


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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries