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IFJ report finds "Partial Justice" in hunt for killers of journalists

(IFJ/IFEX) - 15 June 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today launched its 'Partial Justice' report, a review into the deaths of more than 300 Russian journalists since 1993, at a conference in Moscow hosted by the Russian Union of Journalists.

"The murder of Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006 shocked the world. Yet for every Anna, there have been many less widely known journalists killed for their work across Russia," said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.

"For the first time this report and the accompanying database present a comprehensive record of these murders, whether taking place in cross-fires in conflict zones, or homicide and contract killings, whether journalists killed for their work or in unexplained accidents, or even for personal dealings."

The IFJ review shows that of the 313 journalists' deaths in Russia since 1993

- Up to 124 have died as a direct result of their journalism;

- 18 were clearly murdered for their journalism and another 19 cases reveal strong evidence to suggest they were also killed for their work, most of whom died outside and far from Moscow;

- 189 of the deaths appear to be unrelated to their work.

The report also reveals that the total impunity that existed for killers of journalists until 1997 has gradually receded and that an increasing number of investigations have led to prosecutions and a form of 'Partial Justice'.

The ten cases brought to trial of journalists killed for their work since 1997 saw a 50 per cent conviction rate. Of these, however, only two led to the jailing of all those responsible for the murder.

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 hiring of assassins and their payment have hardly ever been charged, let alone prosecuted.

The report examines six case studies of killed journalists in depth, reviewing the circumstances around the death, the response of the authorities and the reasons behind the failure of the investigation. These analyses reveal the weaknesses of the investigations by police and the prosecutor's office, especially when dealing with the targeted killings of journalists.

A data base launched alongside the report details the circumstances surrounding the deaths of more than 300 journalists in Russia. The first of its kind, http://journalists-in-russia.org/journalists/ classifies these deaths (and disappearances) into five different categories - homicide, accident, crossfire, terrorist act, incident not confirmed and missing.

The report includes the following recommendations to the Russian authorities:

Measures must be taken to tackle the total impunity that persists in parts of the country where no one has yet been prosecuted for the murder of a journalist, in particular the North Caucasus (including Chechnya) and St Petersburg.

Greater support should be provided for investigations and prosecutions where a journalist has been killed for their work.

Crimes against journalists often have distinctive features; the Prosecutor General's office should establish a nationwide database on journalists' crimes to identify these features and develop guidelines to maximize chances of successful investigations.

Some crimes, particularly contract killings, would benefit from being investigated by teams from outside the region where they have been committed.

Findings of investigations should be accessible for review by victim's families and lawyers.

Consider making the killing of a journalist a more serious offence.

"The world journalists' community is grateful to all the monitors and researchers who worked hard to produce the most outstanding record of journalists killed in Russia," added Boumelha. "It is now up to government agencies, prosecutors and the police to act swiftly in bringing the killers to justice and to make journalism safer."

The review is an initiative of the International Federation of Journalists in collaboration with the Russian Union of Journalists, the Glasnost Defence Foundation and the Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations. This is part of World Congress in Moscow in 2007.

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