The International Federation of Journalists today called on Russian authorities to respond “urgently and forcefully” to a series of killings of journalists after the assassination of an editor who was investigating criminal links with one of the country’s major corporations.
On October 9, Aleksei Sidorov, the editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper, the Togliatti Review was stabbed to death by two unidentified men near his home in Togliatti in the Volga region of central Russia. Sidorov had been investigating criminal groups tied up with Russia’s largest car manufacturer, Avtovaz.
“This is the fourth targeted killing of a journalist in Russia this year,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “There is a sinister and unacceptable pattern of murder that strikes at the heart of free expression. The government must respond urgently and forcefully to this crisis for democracy.”
Sidarov’s killing is even more shocking says the IFJ because he took the post of the editor-in-chief of the Togliatti Review about 18 months ago after the assassination of his predecessor Valeriy Ivanov in April 2002. Ivanov had been following corruption links to local officials at the time and his murder remains unresolved.
“It is unconscionable that two journalists following the same independent and professional principles should be struck down in this way,” said White. “These cases bear the hallmarks of contract killings and underscore the crisis facing press freedom in Russia. It seems like democracy has been replaced by a chilling alternative – the way of the gun.”
Sidarov’s death brings to four the number of journalists who have been assassinated for professional activities this year. None of the killers have been brought to justice. “There is a fear that the killing of journalists is taking place with impunity,” said White.
The IFJ says that since the beginning of 2002 13 journalists have been killed in Russia, several of them assassinated by political opponents of their work. The Journalists’ Union of Russia, the IFJ affiliate, is striving for a more robust response by the authorities.
“We support our colleagues in their demands for official action and for the killers to be brought to justice,” said White. “Journalism must be freed from the censorship of violence.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries