Mr. President, earlier this month we marked World Press Freedom Day, a timely opportunity to draw attention to the plight of journalists and others involved in the press and media in the OSCE–Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe–region. While all 56 OSCE countries have accepted specific commitments on media and working conditions for journalists, the difficulty remains translating words on paper into deeds in practice. Today, many courageous journalists are working under tremendously difficult conditions, often at great personal risk, with some paying the ultimate price for their journalistic pursuits.
According to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, nearly a dozen journalists and their colleagues have been killed in the OSCE region since last year’s observance. Among those slain in Russia were Anastasiya Baburova, of Novaya Gazeta; Shafig Amrakhov, of RIA 51; Telman Alishaya, of TV-Chirkei; and Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the popular Web site Ingushetiya, who was killed while in police custody. Scores of journalists have been murdered in Russia alone since the early 1990s.
Others slain over the past 12 months included Ivo Pukanic and Niko Franjic, both of Nacional, in Croatia; and freelance journalists Alexander Klimchuk and Grigol Chikhladze, with Caucasus Images, as well as Dutch RLT TV veteran cameraman Stan Storimans, killed in the conflict zone during the war in Georgia last August. Besides war correspondents, victims often include investigative journalists covering politics, corruption, and human rights.
We are approaching the fifth anniversary of the slaying of American journalist Paul Klebnikov in Moscow. I call upon the Russian authorities to bring to justice all of those responsible in any way for his murder.
As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I note the vital work undertaken by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, a tireless advocate for freedom of expression and the courageous journalists who pursue their profession, sometimes at great personal risk. The reports of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media are available at: http://www.osce.org/fom/. Freedom of expression, free media, and information has been selected as a special focus topic for the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, scheduled to be held in Warsaw, Poland, this fall.