4 February 2009


Last month, renowned human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov who was associated with the investigative newspaper "Novaya Gazeta", and Anastasia Baburova, a reporter for the paper, were assassinated in broad daylight by a lone gunman a few blocks from the Kremlin. International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) is asking you to send condolence messages to the editor of "Novaya Gazeta" and take other action to protest their murders.

The staff of "Novaya Gazeta" live under constant harassment and considerable threat. Four reporters from the paper have died under mysterious circumstances since 2000. The most prominent of them was Anna Politkovskaya, a fierce critic of Russia's stance on Chechnya, who was shot to death in 2006 in her stairwell.

President Dmitri Medvedev held an hour-long meeting with Dmitry Muratov, editor of "Novaya Gazeta" last week - a surprising move, since "Novaya Gazeta" is one of the government's harshest critics. The talk left many wondering whether Medvedev was signalling a liberal departure from the policies of his predecessor and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.

When Muratov confessed that violence against reporters had prompted him to consider closing the newspaper's doors, Medvedev's answer was, "Thank God the newspaper exists."

There are several ways to take action on this case:

Send your condolence message to Muratov and "Novaya Gazeta" at: 2009 (@) novayagazeta.ru

Join the Facebook group against the killing of journalists in Russia, set up by a member of WiPC in Catalan PEN Centre, here: http://tinyurl.com/cjkyfy
Write to the Russian President or the Russian embassy in your country asking for a full investigation into their murders and urgent measures to ensure the safety of journalists. Details here: http://tinyurl.com/bpwvq7
Share your opinion: "Novaya Gazeta's" management has appealed to Russian authorities to allow its journalists to carry weapons. What do you think? Make your comments in this week's discussion on the International Center for Journalists' (IJNet) website: http://tinyurl.com/afach4
For background to the story, see "Double Murder Highlights 'Culture of Impunity'" in the 21 January edition of the "IFEX Communiqué": http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100047/
(4 February 2009)

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