By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter
PARIS, France – Media watchdog group “Reporters Without Borders” released an updated list of the top forty enemies of the press on Monday, May 3, 2010, to mark the UN-backed World Press Freedom Day. The group named Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as a top “predator” in their annual compilation of global leaders who suppress freedom of press. Also on the list were Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin President Ramzan Kadyrov, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Russia was the only country with two politicians on the list.
The report states that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promoted: “a climate of pumped-up national pride that encourages the persecution of dissidents and freethinkers and fosters a level of impunity that is steadily undermining the rule of law.” As evidence of the growing level of impunity, the report cited the killing of five journalists in 2009, which brought the total figure of journalists killed in Russia since 2000 to twenty two.
The report also stated that after the chaotic post-Soviet years under former President Boris Yeltsin, Putin’s leadership effectively consolidated “control” over national media outlets.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, known as “Putin’s guard dog,” has been linked to the deaths of a number of journalists and activists, including reporter Anna Politkovskaya [killed in Moscow in October of 2006], and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova [gunned down in Chechnya in July of 2009]. Those journalists who do continue to operate in Chechnya, continue by abstaining from publishing criticism of either Kadyrov or the Russian state.
Kadyrov was quoted as saying: “The press must be in the service of the Chechen people’s unity.”
According to the report, under the leadership of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, free press has effectively been eradicated in Belarus, and the state has obtained a monopoly on printing and distribution facilities. Independent journalists in Belarus, forced underground, have returned to the clandestine methods of publication and distribution used during the Soviet era. The report also notes that the Lukashenko government has determined “to put an end to online anarchy,” and regularly monitors online activity.
Elsewhere in Europe, the report states that the Basque separatist group in Spain, Eta, and criminal gangs in Italy have threatened and intimidated journalists.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Media watchdog group names freedom “predators” – 3 May 2010
Radio Free Europe – ‘Predators of the Press’ List Released – 3 May 2010
Reporters Sans Frontières Report – Predators 2010 – 3 May 2010
The Moscow Times – Kadyrov, Putin Called “Predators” of Media – 3 May 2010