WASHINGTON – On World Press Freedom Day, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) called for an end to violence against journalists, highlighting four murders from the 57-country OSCE region:
“A free and independent media is one of the cornerstones of the commitments adopted by the 57 participating States in the OSCE. But in too many places, journalists continue to face harassment, threats, intimidation, and violence. In the worst places, journalists have been murdered and their attackers go without punishment. The risks are especially great for investigative reporters who seek to expose corruption and human rights abuses.
This year marks the 14th anniversary of the April 1999 murder of prominent Serbian journalist and editor Slavko Curuvija, who testified before the Helsinki Commission on the abuses of the Milosevic regime just months before his death. In February, the government in Belgrade established a commission to investigate the deaths of Curuvija and other journalists. I hope that this initiative will result in a long over-due measure of accountability.
It has been six years since the murder of 26-year old Alisher Saipov, a Kyrgyzstani journalist who had started an Uzbek-language newspaper and contributed to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty before being gunned down in Osh. Last year, Kyrgyzstan’s highest court ordered a new investigation in the case.
I also urge Ukrainian authorities to ensure that there is a thorough investigation into the murder of Vladimir Goncharenko, editor of the environmental security newspaper EKO Bezpeka. Goncharenko was beaten to death in July 2012 but his assailants have not yet been brought to justice.
Russia remains, by any accounting, the deadliest place for journalists in the OSCE region. On April 8, journalist Mikhail Beketov died of complications stemming from a 2008 beating that left him a multiple amputee, in a wheelchair, and unable to speak. A community organizer and editor of a small newspaper in Russia, Beketov challenged local authorities and the corruption surrounding a controversial plan to construct a highway through the popular old-growth forest on the outskirts of Moscow in the city of Khimki. In 2007, shortly after calling for the resignation of the Khimki administration, his dog was killed and his car set on fire. Undaunted, Beketov continued reporting until his voice was silenced forever by assailants with baseball bats. Adding insult to grave injury, Vladimir Strelchenko, mayor of Khimki and a suspect in the beating, won a defamation case in 2010 against Beketov. And even in death, Khimki authorities sought to thwart Beketov’s desire to be buried in the town he loved. To date, no one has been brought to justice for this heartbreaking crime against Mikhail Beketov and the people he sought to inform.
Finally, I commend the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, for her sharp focus, timely reporting and efforts to protect a free and independent press. Her frank periodic assessments to the participating States will help ensure that these cases are not forgotten.”