Being a reporter is no longer just an ‘interesting job’. Journalists sometimes pay a very high price for telling people the truth.
Over the last year, Russia has held one of the top positions in a list of the “most dangerous countries for journalists”.
Five years after investigative reporter and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her apartment building, her unsolved murder is becoming a test case for Vladimir Putin on his return to Russia’s presidency.
Euronews talked to Alexey Simonov of the Glasnost Defence Foundation which monitors freedom of speech in Russia.
Albina Lir, euronews: “Anna Politkovskaya was killed five years ago. We still don’t know who ordered her murder. The West often calls Russia the country of ‘crimes without punishments’. Do you agree?”
Alexey Simonov, President of the Glasnost Defence
Foundation: “Yes, I do, unfortunately, I have to agree with it and underline that ‘impunity’ has become a constant theme in our dialogue with the authorities over the last five years. All this time we have been speaking about the impunity of crimes against journalists. It is actually the most accurate expression to describe what is happening.”
euronews: “Should we struggle against it?”
Alexey Simonov: “We must do so and it is possible. The main tool for this is to keep people informed. During the last three years, together with the International Federation of Journalists and Russian Union of Journalists we have worked to bring forward this ‘information aspect’. We have been monitoring the situation since 1993, but now we can also use some modern tools to follow what is going on in mass media and more exactly what is happening with violations of the rights of journalists in the information sphere.”
euronews: “Your foundation has existed in Russia for 20 years. Tell us, what are the most effective ways today to protect journalists not only in Russia, but outside, too?”
Alexey Simonov: “We have just unveiled a new database which we created to better monitor attacks on journalists, beatings of journalists, threats to journalists, dismissals of journalists and censorship. Six points of criminal law concern attacks on journalists.
“Our project is international and it already has a strong international resonance. The International Federation of Journalists has put information about this database on their web-site. There is already a strong interest from countries where a lot of crimes against journalists occur – Mexico, Colombia, the Philippines.
“I can’t say we have come up with a kind of panacea, but we have thought up a way to make this work more effective.
“There are, though, two factors that this database can’t help with. Legal authorities must show an interest. We have not achieved that yet. And the personal responsibility of each journalist is very important. Journalists have to understand that what is happening is not just personal to them but is connected to the service they provide to the people. Violence against journalists must be considered as an attack on journalism. And that is very important. Without understanding that, we cannot change anything. Society won’t wake up.”