IFJ and EFJ Slam Head of Russian Investigative Committee over Threats to Senior Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional group the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today called on the Russian authorities to investigate reports of threats made by the Head of the Russian Investigative Committee to a senior journalist of Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

According to Novaya Gazeta, the leading investigative newspaper in Russia, the Head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, threatened to kill the paper's deputy editor, Sergey Sokolov, because of his inquiries into the Committee's investigations.

"We are deeply concerned about these shocking threats which must not be taken lightly, coming from someone in such a powerful position," said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. "No one will have forgotten the horrific murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist for the Novaya Gazeta, who was killed in 2006 because of her work. In these circumstances, the RUJ and Sergey Sokolov have a well- grounded fear for his safety."

The Russian Union of Journalists demanded a public explanation from Mr. Bastrykin following the publication today in Novaya Gazeta of a letter in which chief editor Dmitry Muratov accused the head of Russia's Investigative Committee of making threats of physical violence against Sergey. The letter said that Bastrykin took Sokolov to a secluded and forested area outside Moscow where he told him he could be killed if he did not stop demanding answers about the various investigations under the Committee's control.

In a statement, the RUJ said "In the atmosphere of impunity created by numerous past assaults on journalists and unsolved murders, the allegation of such behavior by the person in charge of investigating the most serious crimes cannot help but arouse the deepest concern among fellow journalists, for their safety and that of their colleagues."

The IFJ and EFJ back the RUJ's demand, warning that the letter shows there are still forces working to suppress independent reporting in Russia.

"These reports will have a chilling effect on robust journalism in Russia," added Arne König, EFJ President. "They need to be thoroughly investigated to reassure the many brave journalists who are genuinely contributing to open and democratic rule in the country."

Meanwhile, Novaya Gazeta was reportedly among the media outlets caught up in the crackdown ordered by the authorities ahead of the opposition protests held in Moscow yesterday. Correspondents said that websites of independent media, including the newspaper, went down before the protest started.

A full record of all deaths of Russian journalists is maintained at journalists-in-russia.org database, set up as a joint initiative of the IFJ/ RUJ and Glasnost Defense Foundation in the wake of Politkovskaya's murder. A further database recording non fatal attacks on journalists was launched in 2011 and is accessible at mediaconflictsinrussia.org.   

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries