House Passes Smith's Resolution Calling on Russia to Accept Outside Aid to Investigate Murders of Journalists

Jun 18, 2007, 01:00 ET from Office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith

    WASHINGTON, June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A resolution authored by
 U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that calls on Russian President Vladimir Putin
 to step-up efforts to investigate a decade-long string of mysterious
 murders of journalists in Russia was overwhelmingly approved by the U.S.
 House of Representatives today.
     "When journalists investigating a corruption case or a human rights
 abuse can be killed without their killers being brought to justice, or
 without a convincing effort being made to do so, this intimidates and has a
 chilling effect on other journalists," Smith said today during House
 consideration of the resolution. "It marks off the borders of what others
 know they must not investigate. As a result, the Russian press cannot
 properly fulfill its function of holding officials to account. This is
 exactly what the killers intend."
     Smith continued, "Most observers think that some Russian officials have
 ordered or at least connived at these murders, since most of the murdered
 journalists were investigating government corruption or involvement in
 human rights abuses. There is good reason to think that people in high
 places are still protecting the murderers."
     Smith's resolution (H.Con.Res. 151) calls upon Putin to seek competent,
 outside law enforcement assistance in the investigation of these unsolved
 murders. The resolution also encourages the administration to formally
 offer Putin and other officials of the Russian Government law enforcement
 assistance from the United States to help identify and bring to justice
 those responsible for the many unsolved murders of journalists in Russia
 during the past decade.
     "I am afraid Russia today may be slipping backward. The Russian economy
 is booming, but Russian democracy seems to be falling below the level of
 many developing countries," Smith said. "Only when journalists can work
 without fear of intimidation and death will we be able to say that we have
 a truly democratic Russian government."
     During the consideration of the resolution, Smith noted that according
 to the International News Safety Institute, Russia holds the second worst
 position in the world in the number of journalists killed in the last ten
 years and that Reporters Without Borders counts 21 murdered journalists
 since March of 2000.
     Among the unsolved murders and mysterious deaths of independent
 journalists in Russia that are documented in the bill's findings are:
     -- Anna Politkovskaya, an acclaimed, award-winning Russian journalist
 and human rights activist who wrote numerous articles critical of Russia's
 persecution of the war in Chechnya, of human rights abuses by the Russian
 Government and of Putin was shot to death in Moscow on October 7, 2006;
     -- Paul Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian version of Forbes
 Magazine, who was investigating suspect business dealings and corruption
 cases in Russia was shot to death in Moscow on July 9, 2004; and
     -- Ivan Safronov, a military affairs reporter for the Russian newspaper
 Kommersant who wrote articles criticizing the failure of Russian military
 programs and who was planning to report on potential Russian arms sales to
 Middle Eastern countries, including to Iran and Syria -- state sponsors of
 terrorism -- died in mysterious circumstances, falling five stories from a
 window in the stairwell of his apartment building in Moscow on March 2,

SOURCE Office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith