Russia’s Lethal Profession
Today we highlight the heroic efforts of the journalists at Novaya Gazeta as they struggle to preserve some vestiges of democracy and civil society in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. A recent report by the International Federation of Journalists reveals that all Russian journalists interested in telling the truth risk their lives every day they go to work. In light of the ongoing efforts of Putin’s Kremlin to shut down newspapers that don’t parrot the Kremlin line, it’s clear that we now face a fully realized neo-Soviet state.
The IFJ says that in the past ten years at least 38 Russian journalists have been murdered because of their reporting. Of these killings, only 10 prosecutions resulted, and of those only five killers were convicted. Of those five, only two were sent to prison. The IFJ states: “Crucially, the report confirms that the masterminds of attacks on journalists are getting away with murder. Over the past 15 years those who ordered the killings and arranged for the hire of assassins and their payment have hardly ever been charged, let alone prosecuted.”
Nearly 100 other Russian journalists lost their lives on the job during this period. Nearly 200 additional journalists lost their lives in circumstances which were claimed to be accidents apparently unrelated to journalism.
The IFJ investigators found vast deficiencies in the basic police work employed by the Kremlin in response to these killings, and ends up giving the Kremlin advice on how to perform essential functions related to law and order. In other words, the Kremlin quite simply couldn’t care less, an attitude to be expected from a government which at least benefits from the killings and at worst is orchestrating them.
Into this maelstrom daily fly Russia’s greatest living patriots, the reporters and editors of Novaya Gazeta. As heedless of their personal safety as any World War II soldier, but fighting instead against their own government, a far more insidious and lethal foe than a fireign army, these mighty men and women risk everything to tell the truth to power, to give their countrymen one last chance to turn away from the brink of totalitarian revanchism.
It’s a thankless task. Just as in Soviet times, the people of Russia simply are not interested in taking risks for abstract values like freedom and democracy, not even though they have seen the consequences of this cowarice crush the USSR and humiliate them before the world. Indeed, just as in the times of Stalin there are far too many Russians who are willing to play an active role in attacking Novaya Gazeta and driving it into ruin, just as Solzhenitisyn was driven from the Soviet lands not so very long ago.
We condemn the Russian government’s barbaric attacks on this heroic newspaper, but even more we condemn the shameful silence of the Russian people themselves, who are doomed to repeat history and suffer even more profoundly because of their cowardice and complicity.