Russia: Four journalists killed and others attacked in first months of 2009

English PEN is alarmed by the increased levels of physical violence against print journalists in Russia. In the first four months of 2009 four have been murdered and four others seriously attacked, seemingly for the practice of their professions. 


English PEN condemns these acts of violence and urges the Russian authorities to initiate full and impartial investigations into these incidents, and to bring those responsible to justice. We are also calling on the Russian authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the independent press and to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists.


English PEN has received reports of serious attacks against four print journalists so far in 2009. All are based outside Moscow, and had been reporting on corruption or criticised local politics.  As is clear in at least one of these cases, police are reluctant to consider the assaults to be politically motivated. As for the cases of those who have been murdered, prosecutions of those who carry out these crimes are rare. PEN observes that attacks that are carried out outside Moscow are even less likely to be properly investigated.


Yury Grachev, editor of the weekly Solnechnogorsky Forum, was reportedly attacked in the town of Solnechnogork, 65 km northwest of Moscow, on 3 February 2009. He was found by his neighbours unconscious and bleeding at the entrance of his home. The Solnechnogorsky weekly had been covering corruption and had been critical of the local authorities, and as a consequence a number of local officials and businessmen were charged with corruption in 2007. It is said that Grachev’s briefcase with material for the following issue of the weekly went missing during the attack.


In Saratov, south-east of the country, Vladim Rogozhin, managing director of the media holding company Vzglyad, was assaulted by two unidentified men on 5 March 2009. Rogozhin was beaten on the head in the corridor of his apartment. There was no robbery. In January 2009 Rogozhin assumed his managerial position and had previously worked for the newspaper Saratovsky Vzglyadan, a news agency and a TV station. He reported on corruption in various levels of the regional government, and it is believed that the attack could be linked with his work.


Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Korruptsiya i Prestupnost (Corruption and Crime), based in Rostov-on-Don, south western Russia, was found unconscious at the foot of a staircase at the entry to his building on 30 April 2009. He had suffered head injuries and after undergoing surgery remains in a critical condition. Yaroshenko’s colleagues believe that he was attacked because of his journalistic work, as his newspaper reports cases of corruption. Soon after the editor was taken to hospital, the police reportedly stated that he had been involved in a fight during the evening of 29 April. Later, the police gave another version of the events saying that the editor hurt himself by falling down the stairs while drunk. On 4 May 2009 there were reports that the police had so far refused to register the attack as a crime.


On 12 March, Maxim Zolotarev, editor of the newspaper Molva Yuzhnoye Podmoskovye, distributed in Serpukhov, a town situated 99 km south of Moscow, reported being assaulted while walking to his car near his flat. Zolotarev was stopped by three unidentified men who got out of a car and hit him with an iron bar after discharging a gas pistol into his face. It is said that the newspaper is critical of local politicians. Zolotarev considered this attack as a warning and decided to stop his journalistic work.


These attacks come in the wake of four murders since the beginning of 2009. The Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), in its 2008 report, states that since 1999, 16 journalists have been murdered in Russia for reporting on cases of corruption, and that only one of these deaths had been solved.  The rest of the killings, including those that occurred this year, have yet to be investigated by the authorities.


One of the most shocking of the recent killings were the double murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasiya Baburova , lawyer and journalist respectively for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who were shot dead in a Moscow street, on 20 January 2009. They were attacked as they left a press conference at the Independent Press Centre. Markelov, the apparent intended target of the assault, was first to be attacked. Baburova attempted to apprehend the gunman as he fled, and was herself shot.


Two months later, also in Moscow, Sergey Protazanov, journalist for the newspaper Grazhdanskoye, died on 30 March 2009. There are reports that he had been badly beaten prior to his death. Earlier, on 5 January, Shafig Amrakhov, editor of the online regional agency RIA 51, died from gunshot wounds in Murmansk hospital, northwest of the country. He had been shot near his home on 30 December. 


Please send appeals:


 – Condemning the high levels of violence against journalists in Russia;
 – Urging the Russian authorities to initiate a full and impartial investigation into these assaults, and to bring those responsible to justice;
 – Calling on the Russian authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the independent press and to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists.


Appeals to:

Mr Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: 7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408


Mr Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka, 15a GSP 3
Moscow 125993
Fax: 7 095 292 88 48


Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov
Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation
Ul. Zhitnaia 14
119 991 Moscow GSP1
Russian Federation
Fax: 7 495 955 57 79


You may also wish to send copies of your appeal to the Russian Embassy in the UK:


His Excellency Yury Viktorovich Fedotov

Embassy of the Russian Federation in the United Kingdom

13 Kensington Palace Gardens


W8 4QX


Fax: 44 (0) 207 727 8625

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