Schiff, Pence Call On Russian President to Halt Persecution of Journalists and Fulfill Promise to Investigate Journalist's Murder

Washington, DC – Representatives Adam Schiff and Mike Pence, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press, have written to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling on him to fulfill his promise to thoroughly investigate the death of journalist and author Anna Politkovskaya and to ensure the right of a free press in his country.  Ms. Politkovskaya wrote about human rights abuses and in particular the conflict in Chechnya, and she was an outspoken critic of President Putin.  Ms. Politkovskaya was the thirteenth Russian journalist killed during Putin’s Presidency and so far none of the other murders has been solved.  Reps. Schiff and Pence started the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press earlier this year to raise awareness regarding media censorship and to promote press freedom around the world.

“Ms. Politkovskaya’s death is a loss to all those who support democracy in Russia,” Schiff said.  “President Putin must make every effort to bring those responsible to justice, and to ensure that not another journalist joins the ranks of the murdered press in Russia.”

"Ms. Politkovskaya's death is a tragedy," said Pence.  "This troubling trend of the intimidation and murder of Russian journalists must be investigated vigorously by President Putin and his government.  The killers must be brought to justice if Russia is to be taken seriously as a nation that values a free press."

The text of the letter is below.

October 17, 2006

His Excellency Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
The Kremlin
Moscow, Russia

Dear President Putin,

As Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press, we want to express our deep concern regarding the recent murder of journalist and author, Anna Politkovskaya.  We welcome your commitment to thoroughly investigate the case. 

Ms. Politkovskaya’s slaying highlights what we see as a growing trend in Russia – unsolved murders of journalists who are critical of the government.  Ms. Politkovskaya was the thirteenth Russian journalist killed during your tenure as president.  None of the twelve previous murder cases has been solved and this is of grave concern to us. 

We encourage you to fulfill your promise to ensure that all necessary efforts are made to objectively investigate Ms. Politkovskaya’s death.  Finding those who are responsible for her death and ensuring they are prosecuted is imperative to promoting democracy in your country. 

In addition, we urge you to undertake all efforts to ensure the safety of journalists in your nation. Tragically, Russia has been the third deadliest country for journalists over the past fifteen years according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. 

A free and open press is an essential guarantor of human rights.  Censorship, intimidation, imprisonment, and murder of journalists is an individual crime, but one that also violates the rights of those who are denied access to important ideas and information.  International law clearly guarantees freedom of expression and the right to a free press, and we urge the restoration of these rights in Russia.