WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY -- (House of Representatives - May 03, 2007)
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Cohen). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 18, 2007, the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.
Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, today is World Press Freedom Day, a day that the international community has set aside to honor the work and sacrifice of journalists around the world.
World Press Freedom Day was first designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 1991 as an occasion to pay tribute to journalists and to reflect upon the role of the media in general in advancing fundamental human rights as codified in international law, regional conventions and national constitutions.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the foundation of the postwar human rights movement, states the principle broadly in article 19. ``Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'' It may not be as eloquent as our first amendment, but its effect is the same.
For Americans, this day should spur us to consider the role that journalists play in our society and to ponder what our Nation would be like if this cornerstone of our liberty were to be curtailed.
Although most Americans take the concept of a free press for granted, I believe that an unfettered press is vital to America's national security and to our democracy here at home.
A year ago today, my colleague from Indiana, Mr. Spence, and Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Lugar joined me in launching a new bipartisan, bicameral caucus aimed at advancing press freedom around the world. The Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press creates a forum where the United States Congress can work to combat and condemn media censorship and the persecution of journalists around the world. The launch of this new caucus sends a strong message that Congress will defend democratic values and human rights wherever they are threatened.
In launching the caucus, we were encouraged by the wide range of organizations and individuals, such as Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Musa Klebnikov, the widow of Paul Klebnikov, the editor of Forbes Russia, who was shot to death outside of his offices 2 years ago, and the legendary Walter Cronkite, all of whom enthusiastically endorsed our effort.
Freedom of the press is so central to our democracy that the Framers enshrined it in the first amendment of our Constitution. At the time, there was little in the way of journalist ethics, and newspapers were filled with scurrilous allegations leveled at public figures. Even so, our Founders understood its importance to advancing the new Nation's experiment in democracy.
In the Virginia Report of 1799-1800, touching the alien and sedition laws, James Madison wrote that, ``Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of everything, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth than by pruning them away to injure the vigor of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, checkered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression, who reflect to the same beneficent source. The United States owes much of the lights which conducted them to the rank of a free and independent nation and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness.''
Throughout much of our history, Madison's argument has guided our national attitude toward the media. Journalists have jealously guarded their rights, and American courts have, in the main, carved out broad protection for the press. In the United States, the press operates almost as a fourth branch of government, the fourth estate, independent of the other three and positioned as an agent of the American people.
From the pioneering work of journalists during the Civil War, to the muckrakers who were committed to exposing social, economic and political ills of industrial life in the early 20th century, to the publication of the Pentagon Papers by The New York Times in 1971, to the work of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in uncovering the Watergate scandal a year later, journalists have performed a crucial role as the watchdogs of our freedom.
But in order for freedom of the press to do its work properly, it must be unfettered, and journalists must be able to do their work without fear of retribution. Information is power, which is precisely why governments, many of them, attempt to control the press to suppress opposition and to preempt dissent. Far too often, reporters and editors who seek to demand reform, accountability and greater transparency find that their livelihoods and even their very lives are in danger. The censorship, intimidation, imprisonment and murder of these journalists violate not only their personal liberty, but also the rights of those who are denied access to these ideas and information.
The United States, as the world's oldest democracy and the greatest champion of free expression, has a special obligation to defend the rights of journalists wherever and whenever they are threatened. A free press is one of the most powerful forces for advancing democracy, human rights and economic development. So our commitment to these larger objectives requires active engagement in the protection and the promotion of this freedom.
These are difficult and dangerous days for reporters around the world. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 56 journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2006, most of whom were murdered to silence or punish them. The toll was 9 more than the 47 journalists killed in 2005, just the year before, and well above average for the last 2 decades of reporting. Another 30 reporters were killed, but law enforcement authorities cannot confirm that their deaths were the result of their work.
Outright murder is not the only tool that the authorities use to silence reporters. As of December 1, 2006, 134 journalists were imprisoned around the world as a consequence of their work. Of these, more than 100 were held by only five countries: China, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Burma.
These countries which imprison journalists for straying beyond the bounds of official censorship are not the most dangerous for journalists, however. Since 1992, more journalists have been killed in Iraq, Algeria, Russia, Colombia and the Philippines than anywhere else.
We are all familiar with the dangers inherent in covering war and insurgencies, and many of those killed in Iraq, Algeria and Colombia have died covering conflicts in these countries. In the Philippines, the murder of journalists has been part of a larger campaign against perceived left-wing activists.
But it is Russia, where more than 20 journalists have been murdered in 6 years since Vladimir Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin, that we wish to address this evening.
All alone among the top five countries where journalists are murdered, the deaths of journalists in Russia seem to be part of a concerted effort to silence the few remaining journalists who refuse to tow the Kremlin line. China, Cuba and others have been rightly condemned for imprisoning journalists who raised the ire of their governments. Moscow seems to have taken a different tack. Instead of censoring jailing journalists it doesn't like, the Kremlin seems to look the other way when they turn up dead.
There is no direct evidence tying the Putin government to the murder of journalists in Russia, but there is a wealth of circumstantial evidence pointing to at least acquiescence in the death of journalists.
The number of journalists killed, the circumstances of their deaths, the stories they were working on, and perhaps most telling, the fact that not one of the crimes has been successfully prosecuted involving the murder of these journalists in Russia, is indicative of a deliberate decision not to dig too deeply into these murders.
Others hint at something darker. In an editorial the Washington Post recently stated, ``The instances of violence against journalists in Mr. Putin's Russia and of the brutal elimination of his critics both at home and abroad have become so common that it is impossible to explain them all as coincidences.''
The evolution of Russian journalism from its dismal Soviet past to its current role as the Kremlin's sycophant is distressing. During the latter part of the 1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev loosened many of the Soviet era's restrictions on the press and the Soviet media became an important player in Gorbachev's policy of Glasnost.
Under Gorbachev, journalists began to explore the full range of issues that had remained hidden for so long by the Soviet Government, the Afghan war, the gulags, the miserable performance of the Soviet economy and the endemic corruption of Soviet society were laid bare. There is little doubt that the Soviet media's revelations were a catalyst in the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
In the immediate post-Soviet era, the Russian press foundered as the economy collapsed, but the first Chechen war, which lasted from 1994 to 1996, revitalized Russian journalism. Television was especially powerful, and its coverage of the war turned millions of Russians against the conflict. In many respects, this period was the high watermark for an independent press in Russia.
But even as NTV and other television outlets helped to shape domestic opposition to the Chechen war, Russian journalism was shedding its independence. As Michael Specter wrote in the New Yorker about this period in Russia, ``The moral tone of the journalist's world began to shift from idealistic to mercenary. The practice of writing biased news articles for money became routine, even at the best papers. Restaurant owners, businessmen and public officials knew that, for the right price, it would bring them favorable coverage almost anywhere.''
This distortion of the journalistic creed of objectivity and neutrality was exacerbated in 1996 when President Yeltsin, whose support and opinion polls had fallen into the low single digits, faced off against Communist Gennady Zyuganov in the Russian presidential election. Knowing that without third-party intervention Yeltsin was doomed and that Zyuganov would reimpose control over the media, Russia's media elite intervened.
Over the course of the campaign, NTV and other media outlets collectively swayed Russian public opinion and Yeltsin ended up winning. But the damage was done. As a former anchor for NTV told the New Yorker's Michael Specter, the election ``put a poisoned seed into the soil, and even if we did not see why, the authorities understood at once mass media could very easily be manipulated to achieve any goal. Whether the Kremlin needed to raise the rating of a president or bring down an opponent or conduct an operation to destroy a businessman, the media could do the job.''
Once the Kremlin understood it could use journalists as instruments of its will and saw that journalists would go along, everything that happened in the Putin era was, sadly, quite logical.
The ascension of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency cemented the link between Russia's rulers and the press. Even without government censorship, the press has become a passive booster of the president's efforts to centralize authority and to restore Russia to its former status as a great power. To that end, the Russian media has ignored the corruption and cronyism that has become institutionalized in Russia since the Yeltsin period, and has largely been uncritical of the prosecution of the second Chechnyan war which has raged for nearly 8 years.
But even as the vast majority of their colleagues censor themselves and follow the Kremlin line, a few brave journalists have dared to investigate, to question, and criticize. Journalistic independence in Russia is dangerous. And in a few minutes we will introduce you to some of the journalists whose brave voices have been stilled.
When my colleague arrives back on the floor, MIKE PENCE, I will introduce him. He has been a leading voice in the House on human rights and serves as the other co-chair of our Congressional Caucus For Freedom of the Press.
But this evening I will start in highlighting the Russian journalists who have lost their lives by talking about Ivan Safronov, who died in early March of this year after falling from a fifth floor stairwell window in his apartment building in Moscow.
He was a correspondent at Kommersant, and is the most recent journalist in Russia to die under a cloud of suspicion. Russian officials quickly called his death a suicide. However, according to colleagues of his at Kommersant, he had a very happy family life and had no motive to commit suicide. It was not until Kommersant and some other news media suggested foul play that the authorities agreed to investigate the circumstances of Mr. Safronov's death.
According to his editors, Mr. Safronov, a military affairs writer, was working on a story about Russian plans to sell weapons to Iran and Syria via Belarus. Mr. Safronov had been a colonel in the Russia Space Forces prior to reporting for Kommersant. He frequently angered authorities with his critical reporting and was repeatedly questioned by Federal authorities which suspected him of divulging state secrets. One such report that Mr. Safronov filed that angered officials revealed the third consecutive launch failure of a new Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile. This had been a pet project of President Putin's which was supposed to show the world Russia's nuclear strength.
Strangely enough, no charges were ever brought up against Mr. Safronov. He was well aware that he was reporting on a sensitive issue and was very careful in his work always to have a way to prove he was not divulging state secrets. He was known for making meticulous notes and conducting thorough research so he could always prove he got his information from known sources.
It would seem that sadly Mr. Safronov's reporting was too good and the only way to silence him was by eliminating him. Mr. Safronov is not on either of the lists of journalists that we have tonight to highlight because his death is so recent. But his tragic death is another example of the lack of progress being made to protect journalists in Russia.
Before I begin highlighting 13 of the journalists on the committee to protect journalists of the most recently murdered journalists in Russia, I would like to introduce my colleague from Indiana, MIKE PENCE, who is one of the co-chairs of the caucus and does a superb job advocating for the rights of the media.
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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman for your generosity and commitment. I know my colleague probably feels as I do that there is many a morning I get up and read the newspaper, seeing my own name in it, and not feel that this is the day I want to champion a free press. That does happen from time to time. But notwithstanding those occasional morning papers, we almost always recognize the importance of the institution. That is why we are here tonight.
When we have gotten together in the past, it is to highlight journalists who have been imprisoned or murdered or killers who have gone with impunity around the world. But because of the magnitude of the problem in Russia, because of the prevalence and the pernicious nature of what is going on in Russia, we felt that we needed to spotlight one country tonight and devote the entire hour to Russia.
Let me start by highlighting some of the 13 journalists in Russia who have been killed contract-style since President Putin was elected president in 2000.
This list of journalists was compiled by the caucus to protect journalists. These 13 journalists are all believed to have been deliberately killed due to their work as journalists. Their names and the dates they were killed and the media outlets they worked for are listed on some of the graphics that we have here tonight, and these are the faces of the 13 slain journalists.
It is one thing when we talk about the numbers of journalists that have been murdered this year and the number that were murdered last year or the number killed in Russia alone over the last several years. Those are only numbers; but when we look at this chart and we look at these journalists and we realize that these were each promising lives, these were each important lives, these were real people doing a courageous job who are no longer among us, we can understand the enormity of the crime that is going on.
The first of the journalists on the committee's list and the second most recent journalist in Russia to be murdered, probably the most well-known internationally is Anna Politkovskaya. Her portrait is behind me. Anna was found shot to death in her Moscow home on October 7 of last year in a murder that garnered worldwide condemnation.
Her death sparked protests from governments around the world, the European Union, and civil society groups concerned with freedom of the press.
Anna was a courageous and world-renowned writer for the paper Novaya Gazeta. For many years she had campaigned against the war in Chechnya, corruption, and shrinking freedoms throughout the Russian Federation. Anna was a fearless journalist committed to reporting the truth about the conflict in Chechnya, which she called ``a small corner of hell.''
In 7 years covering the second Chechen war, Anna's reporting repeatedly drew the wrath of Russian authorities. For simply reporting the truth about the conflict, she was threatened, jailed, forced into exile, and even poisoned. Even that was not enough to silence her.
In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Politkovskaya noted the government's obstruction and harassment of journalists trying to cover the Chechen conflict. She pointed out the difficulty of covering the 2004 hostage crisis in the North Ossetian town of Beslan that left 334 civilians dead. She said, ``There is so much more to write about Beslan, but it gets more and more difficult when all the journalists who write are forced to leave.''
Apparently the authorities were not content with simply forcing Politkovskaya to leave. She was poisoned on her way to cover the Beslan crisis. After drinking tea on a flight to the region, she became seriously ill and was hospitalized, but the toxin was never identified because the medical staff was instructed to destroy her blood tests.
Politkovskaya was threatened and attacked numerous times in retaliation for her work. In February 2001, security agents detained her in the Vedeno district in Chechnya, accusing her of entering Chechnya without accreditation. She was kept in a pit for three days without food or water, while a military officer threatened to shoot her. Seven months later, she received death threats from a military officer accused of crimes against civilians. She was forced to flee to Vienna after the officer sent an e-mail to Novaya Gazeta promising that he would seek revenge.
When Politkovskaya covertly visited Chechnya in 2002 to investigate new allegations of human rights abuses, security officers arrested her, kept her overnight at a military base, and threatened her. In October of that year, Politkovskaya served as a mediator between armed Chechen fighters and Russian forces during a hostage standoff in a central Moscow theater. Two days into the crisis, with the Kremlin restricting media coverage, Russian forces gassed the theater and 129 hostages died. Politkovskaya delivered some of the most compelling accounts of that tragedy.
Just prior to her murder, Anna was working on an article, accompanied by photos, about torture in Chechnya. It was due to be published days after she was killed. Her article, however, never arrived at the newspaper.
In her last book, Russia Under Putin, which was published this year in France, she not only criticized atrocities in Chechnya but also corruption and human rights violations in Russia.
Anna was internationally acclaimed for her courage and her professionalism, and now you can see why. She was named by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the world's top press freedom figures of the past 25 years in the fall 2006 edition of its magazine, Dangerous Assignments.
Anna may have been killed, but her memory continues to live on. Today, Anna was named this year's winner of the prestigious 2007 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. This is the first time the honor has been awarded posthumously in its 10-year history.
While the Russian Government claims that many leads have been examined, so far the investigation has stalled, and no charges have been filed, a sadly familiar tale when a journalist is murdered in Russia.
This is the face of a woman of great courage, who gave her life so that the truth could come out and be told, and tonight we honor her memory and we point to her example.
I will turn now to Mr. Pence to highlight our next journalist.
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Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman.
The next casualty in Russia's war on journalism that we will highlight tonight is Paul Klebnikov whose photo appears here.
Paul, editor of Forbes Russia and an investigative reporter, was gunned down as he left his Moscow office late at night on July 9, 2004. Authorities in Moscow described the case as a contract murder and said that he may have been killed because of his work. Paul, a U.S. journalist of Russian descent, was 41 years old when he was shot at least nine times from a passing car.
I had the opportunity to speak with his widow a year ago today when Representative Pence and I launched this caucus, and I expressed my deep sorrow to her and their three young children about this tragic occurrence.
Paul had just started as the editor of Forbes Russia, which had launched three months prior to his death. He had risen through the ranks of Forbes over the prior 15 years with the magazine, starting as a reporter covering Russian economic reform and the rise of the country's new business elite. As a son of Russian emigrants with a long military tradition across the political stratosphere, Paul developed a significant expertise in Russian and Eastern European politics and economics, which he used to report on the murky world in post-Soviet Russia where politics and business meet.
Over the course of his career, Paul conducted hundreds of interviews with top Russian officials and business leaders and had interviewed nearly all of Russia's most famous businessmen, its oligarchs. His research into the activities of these leaders led to his first book. Further research into organized crime in Chechnya led to his second book. In 2003, he published a groundbreaking article on corruption among Iran's theocratic rulers.
When given the opportunity to launch Forbes Russia, Paul considered it a great opportunity to bring the best of Western values to a Nation struggling through a difficult political, economic and social transition. He wrote that Russia, despite setbacks, was entering an era where lawful, innovative, free enterprise capitalism could emerge. In Forbes Russia's inaugural edition of April 2004, Paul published an investigative piece that led to criticism from the Kremlin. The following May issue included a list of Russia's 100 richest people, noting that Moscow had more billionaires than any other city. Both articles incited the subjects of the pieces, and Paul's tradition of creating enemies through his reporting continued.
That history followed him to the night of his murder when Paul, after leaving work, was shot multiple times and killed. In his dying words, he said he couldn't imagine who wanted him dead.
A special crimes unit was assigned to investigate Paul's murder.
On September 28, 2004, Moscow police said they arrested two Chechen men suspected in the murder. But the suspects denied involvement, and police backed off their initial assertion. Less than two months later, on November 18, 2004, Moscow police and the Belarusian security service arrested three other Chechens considered suspects in the murder. Authorities provided only limited information about the evidence they used to link the new suspects to the crime.
Some analysts reacted to the arrests with skepticism. After the September arrests were reported, Oleg Panfilov, director of the Moscow-based press freedom group Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told an interviewer that authorities were pursuing a ``farfetched Chechen trail.''
Today, Paul's case remains another unsolved murder in Russia.
Paul may have believed Russia was entering a new era, but today we can still see that with independent reporting stifled and investigative journalists living in fear of contract killings, post-Soviet Russia still must close a vast gap to begin to have a free and unbiased press.
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Mr. SCHIFF. It is a sad commentary on the number of journalists that have been murdered in Russia, that in an hour we will not have time to discuss all of them.
There are several journalists we may not be able to fully describe this evening who are featured on our chart. I do want to let those know who are listening and watching know that the full biographies and facts that we are outlining tonight can be obtained from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders. Much of the material we are using tonight is drawn from their sources, and we are deeply grateful for their work and assistance.
The next journalist we will highlight tonight is Dmitry Shvets. Dmitry's picture appears here in the middle of the chart. On April 18, 2003, the 37 year-old deputy director general of the independent television station TV-21 Northwestern Broadcasting in the northern Russian City of Murmansk, was shot dead outside of the station's offices.
An unknown assailant shot Dmitry several times at approximately 5:00 in the afternoon in front of witnesses and escaped in a getaway car that was waiting nearby. Dmitry died instantly. Dmitry was well known in Murmansk, not only for running the television station, but also for his political activism and a number of commercial interests. Although he had not worked as a journalist in many years, Dmitry remained in a managerial position and on the station's board of directors. According to press reports in the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, he influenced the station's editorial policy and TV-21's reporting.
The Murmansk media covered Dmitry's murder widely and actively speculated about the possible motive. Dmitry's colleague said the TV-21 had received several threats for its critical reporting on several influential politicians, include Andrei Gorshkov, a candidate in the city's mayoral race.
Several weeks before Dmitry's murder, Gorshkov had threatened TV-21's journalists several times after they broadcast a tough interview with him. TV-21 news editor Svetlana Bokova told the Committee to Protect Journalists that at the time of his death, Dmitry was using his contacts at the police and prosecutor's office to investigate the mayoral candidate's links to organized crime.
Police investigated various motives behind the murder, including Dmitry's political, commercial and journalistic activities at TV-21. Dmitry's colleagues maintain that he was killed in retaliation for TV-21's critical reporting on local politics.
Sadly, Dmitry's murder has yet to be solved.
I now yield to the gentleman from Indiana.
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Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman very much, and particularly since the gentleman conducted a special order hour before this one, I am amazed that his voice has held up this long. I thank the gentleman for all your work, and appreciate you joining me tonight.
The next journalist that I will highlight this evening is Eduard Markevich, and Eduard's picture appears in the upper left-hand corner. Mr. Markevich was the 29-year-old editor and publisher of Novy Reft, the local newspaper in the town of Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Region. He was found dead, shot in the back.
Novy Reft often criticized local officials, and Eduard's colleagues told the ITAR-TASS news service that he had received threatening telephone calls prior to the attack. This was not the first attack on Eduard, the Region-Inform news agency reported. In 1998, two unknown assailants broke into his apartment and severely beat him in front of his pregnant wife. They were never caught.
In 1999, Eduard was illegally detained for 10 days after local prosecutor's office charged him with defamation over a Novy Reft article questioning the propriety of a lucrative government contract that gave a former deputy prosecutor the exclusive right to represent the Reftinsky administration in court.
In May 2001, federal prosecutor general Vladimir Ustinov reprimanded the local prosecutor for violating Eduard's constitutional rights.
Police investigated, or launched an investigation into Eduard's murder. Now 6 years after the journalist's death. Authorities have made no progress, the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations has reported. There is continually no progress made.
His wife continues to publish the Novy Reft, and, this evening, Eduard is in our thoughts and in our memories.
The next journalist I will highlight this evening, is Adam Tepsurgayev. Adam's picture appears just here to my right. Adam was a 24-year-old Chechen cameraman. He was shot dead at a neighbor's house in the village of Alkhan-Kala. His brother, Ali, was wounded in the leg during the attack.
A Russian government spokesman blamed Chechen guerillas for the murder. The gunman reportedly spoke Chechen, but local residents said the guerillas had no reason to kill a cameraman. During the first Chechen war in 1994-1996 Adam worked as a driver and fixer for foreign journalists. Later he started shooting footage from the front lines of the conflict between Russian troops and separatists guerillas. Reuters' Moscow bureau chief, Martin Nesirky, described him as an ``irregular contributor.'' While most of Reuter's footage from Chechyna in 2000 was credited to Adam, including shots of Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev, having his foot amputated, he had not worked for Reuters in the 6 months before he died. His murder, too, is yet to be solved, and there are no details about any investigation.
The next journalist I will highlight this evening is Valery Ivanov. Valery's picture appears here. On April 29, 2002, Mr. Ivanov, editor of the newspaper, Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye, in the southern Russian city of Togliatti, was shot dead outside his home at approximately 11 at night. He was 32 years old and was shot eight times in the head at point blank range while entering his car, a colleague at the newspaper said.
Eye witnesses saw a 25- to 30-year-old man walk up to Valery's car and shoot him, according to local press reports and the Committee to Protect Journalists sources. The killer used a pistol with a silencer and fled the scene on foot.
Valery's colleagues believe the killing was connected to his work. The newspaper he worked for is well known for its reports on local organized crime, drug trafficking and official corruption. Valery also served as a deputy in the local legislative assembly.
Local police opened a criminal investigation into the murder, and many considered several possible motives, though it is believed by many that he was killed in retaliation for his writing. Five years later, no one has been brought to justice for Valery's murder.
The next journalist we will highlight this evening is Sergey Ivanov. There is little known about the death of Sergey Ivanov. His picture appears here.
Around 10 p.m. on October 3, 2000, unknown gunmen killed Sergey in front of his apartment building in Togliatti, a town in Samara Province. He was the director of the largest independent television company in Togliatti. Sergey was shot five times in the head and chest.
Lada-TV, which the 30-year-old Sergey had headed since 1993, was a significant player in the local political scene. Investigators have considered a possible or commercial programming dispute as the motivation for the murder. However, the murder still remains unsolved. Without a complete investigation, we may never know the circumstances of his death.
The next journalist murdered in Russia we will highlight this evening is Iskandar Khatloni. Mr. Khatloni's picture appears to the far right on this chart, to my far right, that is.
On September 21, 2000, Iskandar, who was a reporter for the Tajik-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was attacked late at night at his Moscow apartment by an unknown, axe-wielding assailant. The door of his apartment was not damaged, indicating that there was no forced entry and that the journalist might have known his attacker.
The 46-year-old Iskandar was struck twice in the head, according to Radio Free Europe's Moscow bureau. He then stumbled into the street and collapsed and was later found by a passerby. The journalist died later that night in Moscow's Botkin Hospital. Local police opened a murder investigation, but had made little progress by year's end.
Iskandar had worked since 1996 as a Moscow-based journalist for the Tajik service of the U.S.-funded RFE/RL, which broadcasts daily news programming to Tajikistan.
A Radio Free Europe spokeswoman said at the time of his death, Iskandar had been working on stories about the Russian military's human rights abuses in Chechyna.
Earlier in the year, a senior official in Russia's Media Ministry charged that Radio Free Europe was ``hostile to our state.'' His death, along with all the other journalists killed in Russia since 2000, remains unsolved.
The next journalist we will highlight this evening is Sergey Novikov. On the night of July 26, 2000, Sergey Novikov, the 36-year-old owner of the only independent radio station in Smolensk, was shot and killed on the stairwell of his apartment building. The killer shot him four times and escaped through the back door.
Sergey had received death threats earlier in the year after announcing his intent to run for provincial governorship. He was one of the most successful businessmen in the region, serving on the board of directors of a local glass-making factory.
Sergey's employees believed his murder was politically motivated. His radio station, Radio Vesna, was a frequent critic of the government of Smolensk Province. Three days before his death, Sergey had taken part in a television panel that had discussed the alleged corruption of the provincial deputy government. To this day, his killer remains at large and the police have not determined a motive for his death.
My time will soon run out. There is one final reporter that I wish to highlight on this chart tonight, Igor Domnikov. On July 16, 2000, Igor, a 42-year-old reporter and special projects editor for the twice-weekly Moscow paper, Novaya Gazeta, died after being attacked 2 months earlier in the entryway of his apartment building in southeastern Moscow. According to numerous sources, the reporter was attacked by an unidentified assailant who hit him repeatedly on the head with a heavy object, presumably a hammer, and left him lying unconscious in a pool of blood, where a neighbor found him.
Igor was taken to the hospital with injuries to the skull and brain. After surgery and 2 months in a coma, the journalist died on July 16.
From the very beginning, Igor's colleagues and the police were certain the attack was related to his professional activity or that of the newspaper. It was also believed for a while that the assailant mistook Igor, who covered social and cultural issues, for a Novaya Gazeta investigative reporter named Oleg Sultanov, who lives in the same building. Sultanov claimed to have received threats from the Federal Security Service in January for his reporting on corruption in the Russian oil industry.
According to the paper's editorial staff, the Interior Ministry was actively investigating the brutal attack and promised Igor's colleagues to finish the investigation by the end of the summer if the latter agreed not to interfere or disclose any details of the case to the public. However, in early fall of that year the police downgraded the case's high priority status and archived it, as allowed by law for cases unresolved within 3 months.
Igor's colleagues were not informed about the downgrade. As they explained, archiving does not mean outright closure of the investigation; the case may be reopened if new information emerges. But this did not appear likely and has yet to happen almost 7 years later.
Those are the journalists we have time to highlight this evening. They are just a window into the attack on press freedom going on in Russia, and they stand as a shining example of the courage and dedication of some of the men and women around the world devoted to freedom of the press.
Tonight we honor their memory and we call on the Putin government to investigate their deaths and hold those responsible accountable