Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
June 14, 2000
HELSINKI COMMISSION CHAIRMAN
DECRIES RUSSIAN MEDIA FIGURE’S ARREST
Putin’s Human Rights Record Continues to Slide
(Washington) – The Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission) Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) characterized today’s arrest of Russian independent media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky as an alarming step by Russian authorities that will have a further chilling effect on media freedom in Russia.
Smith cited the arrest as the latest in a series of incidents documenting the downward trend in Russia’s human rights picture under President Putin’s watch. Putin has repeatedly stated his intentions to establish a “dictatorship of law” in Russia.
“I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Gusinsky would have been arrested if his media outlets had not been critical of government policies and some of the figures within the Putin administration,” Smith said. “This act is part of an all-out assault against the most prominent remaining independent media organizations in Russia. This is a very disturbing development.”
Gusinsky, whose electronic and print media outlets have criticized various government policies and leveled charges of corruption within the Putin administration, was arrested today on charges of stealing government property. He is being held at Butyrka Prison in Moscow. On May 11 of this year, government officials raided the NTV office and the headquarters of Gusinsky’s holding company, Media-Most.
On May 23, 2000, the Helsinki Commission held congressional hearings on the human rights picture under the Putin administration. Among the witnesses was Igor Malashenko, first deputy chairman of Media-Most.
In his testimony, Malashenko called the raid on Media-Most and NTV “vengeance for material already published or aired” and “an act of intimidation to prevent further investigative reporting by the media not only in Moscow [but] all over the country.”
Other witnesses at the hearing noted similar moves by national and regional authorities to intimidate independent media and non-governmental organizations.
Testimony documenting human rights abuses under Putin’s watch are available on the Helsinki Commission’s web site: www.csce.gov .
Media Contact: Ben Anderson
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Freedom of the Media