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