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Impunity reigns in province killings, says CPJ report

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, October 27, 2011 - Despite eyewitnesses, a murder weapon, and credible leads, two consecutive killings committed nearly 10 years ago remain unsolved in the southern city of Togliatti, a common outcome in cases of journalists silenced by death in Russia, a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found.

"The Togliatti murders are emblematic of Russia's woefully inadequate judicial system," said CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Nina Ognianova, author of the report. "Provincial cases, lower in profile and subject to powerful local influences, put to the test Russian leaders' commitment to upholding the rule of law."

Valery Ivanov, founding editor of Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye, then the leading newspaper in Russia's car-making capital, was killed with a silenced pistol just outside his home in April 2002. Eighteen months later, his successor, Aleksei Sidorov, was stabbed to death in front of his apartment building. The newspaper was known for its investigations into corruption and organized crime.

Despite evident connections between the two Togliatti murders, authorities never joined them under one inquiry. Investigators virtually ignored a common, obvious, and compelling lead - that both editors were working on a story about alleged police malfeasance when they were killed. "New promises of commitment repeatedly give way to old habits of neglect," said Ognianova. "At the very least, investigations into the murders of Valery Ivanov and Aleksei Sidorov should be reopened and joined into one probe with proper oversight by federal authorities."

In 19 work-related journalist murders since 2000, authorities have won convictions in only two cases - the product of a criminal justice system beset by corruption, lack of accountability, and conflicts of interest. Authorities have made some recent progress in addressing this record of impunity - one of the world's worst - by winning convictions in the 2009 slaying of Anastasiya Baburova and making arrests in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Nonetheless, the Togliatti murders illustrate systemic problems that afflict the other 15 unsolved murders, nearly 70 percent of them in the Russian provinces.

Click here to read the full report
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