EDITORIAL: Russia, the Africa of the North


Russia, the Africa of the North

Cameroon, Ethiopia, Congo and Russia. What do these four nations have in common?

They are part of a group of six nations, which also includes Vietnam and Peru, that currently, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, have at least two journalists each in prison because of their writing alone.

Only eight countries on the entire planet have more incarcerated journalists according to CPJ.  Russia, it seems, is the Africa of the North.

This doesn’t take into consideration, of course, jounalists who are currently being prosecuted and face future  jail time, or those who are brutally assaulted, driven into exile or killed outright.

The two journalists currently being persecuted by the Kremlin are Anatoly Sardayev, editor of Mordoviya Segodnya and Boris Stomakhin, editor of Radikalnaya Politika.

Stomakhin has been in jail since March 2006, and is serving five years for “extremism.”  His crime? Criticizing the Kremlin’s policy in Chechnya, which apparently makes him a terrorist.  CPJ stages:

In her rulingJudge Lyubov Ishmuratova said Stomakhin’s articles “approved Chechen terrorists’ criminal actions aimed at the annihilation of the Russian people as an ethnicity.” The ruling quoted Stomakhin as writing: “Let tens of new Chechen snipers take their positions in the mountain ridges and the city ruins and let hundreds, thousands of aggressors fall under     righteous bullets! No mercy! Death to the Russian occupiers! … The Chechens have the full moral right to bomb everything they want in Russia .”

In June 2007, the Kremlin transferred him to a prison far from his home without even telling his family it had occrred, or his lawyer.  His health is failing.

Sardayev has also been serving a five year term, since June 2007.  Three months later, his paper closed its door.  He was accused, just like oligarch Mikhail Khorkovsky, of financial improprieties three years earlier,while working as a post office bureaucrat.  The “crime” was suddenlydiscovered after he began publishing exposure pieces on the local governor in Saransk.  Sardayev was particularly interested in tax breaks the government was handing out to local energy companies.  He was arrested just after a special edition on corruption by th regime, which was appointed by Vladmir Putin, hit the streets.

This is barbarism, pure and simple.  We recently reported that the Kremlin’s goons are going after business journalists who dare to use the word “crisis” in describing the current state of the Russian economy.  Bloggers have been prosecuted for writing comments on other blogs critical of the regime.  What difference is there between this crackdown and the policies and practices of the USSR?

None that we can see.

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