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«The Russian Federation has a centralized political system, with power concentrated in a president and a prime minister, a weak multiparty political ...»

-- [ Page 6 ] --

While the government generally respected citizens' right to freedom of speech, state-controlled media frequently ignores critical voices with regard to the conduct of federal forces in the North Caucasus, human rights, high-level corruption, and opposition political views. Some regional and local authorities took advantage of the judicial system's procedural weaknesses and overly broad laws to detain persons for expressing views critical of the government.

On July 7, authorities formally charged Oleg Orlov of the NGO Memorial with "slander" for accusing Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of complicity in the 2009 killing of human rights activist and journalist Natalya Estemirova. Human rights advocates and international observers criticized the case against Orlov as an infringement of free speech. On September 13, Orlov went on trial in the Khamovnicheskiy Court in Moscow; Orlov's trial was scheduled to continue in 2011.

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With some exceptions, judges appeared unwilling to challenge federal and local officials who sought to prosecute critics. These proceedings on occasion resulted in large fines.

On September 16, the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti refused to allow the members of the newly established opposition coalition, For Russia without Tyranny and Arbitrariness, to hold a press conference on the agency's premises.

While the agency had previously agreed to lend its premises, it cancelled the event an hour and a half before its scheduled time. Opposition figures claimed the cancellation was politically motivated.

In some cases the government used direct ownership, or ownership by large private companies with government links, to control or influence some major national media and regional media outlets, especially television. During the year the government reportedly used its leverage to restrict dissemination of information about issues deemed sensitive, including coverage of opposition political parties and official corruption. Several times during the year, there were reports on Ekho Moskvy and other independent media outlets about self-censorship in the television media, particularly on issues critical of the government. Print, Internet and radio media were more free and independent in comparison. Russian television journalist Leonid Parfyonov decried self-censorship in the media, stating in a November speech that "journalists are not journalists at all, but bureaucrats, following the logic of service and submission."

International observers criticized the unbalanced access to the media, particularly television, for candidates in local elections in March and October, noting that, as in previous elections, United Russia candidates were given favored media access.

Observers also noted numerous press freedom abuses, including harassment of media outlets, legislative limitations, lack of equal access to information, and arbitrary application of rules.

More than 60 percent of the country's 45,000 registered local newspapers and periodicals were owned directly by the government or by state-owned/statecontrolled companies. The largest daily newspaper was independently owned, but several other influential national newspapers were owned by the government, by persons with ties to the government, or by state-owned companies. Many publications without government connections maintained editorial independence and resisted selective attempts by the government to influence their reporting.

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The federal government owned one of the six national television stations and had a controlling interest in one other; state-owned or state-affiliated companies owned controlling interests in three others; and the Moscow city administration owned the sixth. Approximately two-thirds of the other 2,500 television stations in the country were completely or partially owned by the federal and local governments.

As a result, the television media often offered constrained editorial content, in particular, avoiding any content critical of the government.

International media continued to face some impediments to their ability to operate freely. Since 2007 authorities have curtailed stations broadcasting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VOA) news programs, except for stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which continued to broadcast RFE/RL and VOA programs.

Government-controlled media consistently provided one-sided coverage of President Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The government maintained ownership of the largest radio stations, Radio Mayak and Radio Rossiya, both of which adhered to government positions in their news reporting. Ekho Moskvy radio, despite being majority-owned by the statecontrolled corporation Gazprom, provided broader coverage and independent editorial comment, often sharply critical of the government, and a platform to members of the opposition. The government also owned the national news agencies ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti.

According to the media freedom NGO Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF) there were 58 attacks against journalists during the year, approximately the same level as in 2009. In most cases, according to the GDF, the mistreatment appeared to have been at the initiative of local officials.

A number of journalists were assaulted and several were killed during the year;





frequently the attacks were directly related to the journalists' professional activities, although it was not always clear whether this was the case. According to the GDF, this year 12 journalists were killed, although other sources listed fewer. Most cases of high-profile killing and kidnapping of journalists were unresolved. In March 2009 the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported 40 cases of unresolved killings of journalists since 2003. NGOs supporting independent media characterized beatings of journalists by unknown assailants as "routine," noting

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that those who pursued investigative stories on corruption and organized crime found themselves at greatest risk.

For example, on May 31, police in Moscow detained and allegedly beat Gazeta.ru correspondent Aleksandr Artemyev for attending an opposition rally in support of freedom of assembly. The rally had been prohibited by Moscow city authorities.

Police broke Artemyev's arm in two places. His attempts to seek criminal prosecution of the police were not successful.

On April 26, unidentified assailants in Sochi severely beat Arkadiy Lander, editor in chief of the local newspaper Mestnaya. He suffered severe head injuries and was hospitalized. Lander's colleagues believed that the attack was in response to the newspaper's frequent criticism of city authorities and corruption. The police investigation into the attack produced no results by year's end.

On May 18, an unknown attacker in Tomsk fired several shots from a nonlethal weapon at Mark Minin, director of a local television station, without attempting to rob him. According to Minin, the attack could have been ordered by individuals he featured on his television programs.

On November 6, journalist and blogger Oleg Kashin was severely beaten outside his Moscow home by two attackers. It is possible that the attack was connected to his work, as he had reported on the controversial Khimki Forest road construction project and Kremlin-sponsored political youth movements and had engaged in a public dispute with Pskov Governor Andrei Turchak. He also exposed Russian Youth Agency Head Vasiliy Yakemenko's alleged indiscretions with an underage girl. The Young Guard, a Kremlin-based youth group, had publically threatened Kashin on its Web site, citing the journalist in a column headlined "JournalistBetrayers Should Be Punished." President Medvedev ordered the Prosecutor General's Office and the Interior Ministry to investigate. There were no arrests by year's end.

On November 4, Khimki Forest opposition activist Konstantin Fetisov was attacked with a bat and suffered a skull fracture after leaving a police station following questioning by the police regarding Khimki Forest protests. Fetisov remained in a coma, and three persons were arrested in connection with the attack.

–  –  –

Mikhayilov stated that a member of the Duma texted him: "Your activity will not be without consequences." Police stated that they do not believe the attack was related to Mikhayilov's work.

On November 8, two men attacked Zhukovsky Vesti reporter Anatoly Adamchuk outside his newspaper's offices. He was hospitalized with a head injury, and his thumb drive was stolen. According to Adamchuk's colleagues, he stated that the attackers repeatedly stated the name of his newspaper while beating him.

Adamchuk had written about the felling of local forests prior to an on air show.

Moscow police claimed that Adamchuk faked this attack and hired two persons to stage it.

The Murmansk Interior Criminal Investigation Department announced they believed that the January 2009 shooting death in Murmansk of Shafiq Amrakhov, editor of the online news site RIA-5151, was connected to his business activities and not his work as a journalist. Amrakhov was shot in the stairwell of his home.

There were no developments in the investigation into the March 2009 death of Sergey Protazanov, journalist for the newspaper Grazhdanskoye Soglasie (Civic Agreement), who was attacked by unknown assailants in the Moscow suburb of Khimki. His colleagues indicated that he had been working on a story about the local administration's alleged violations of electoral law.

There were no developments in the investigation into the April 2009 attack on Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, editor in chief of the Rostov-on-Don newspaper Korruptsiya I Prestupnost (Corruption and Crime). Yaroshenko died of his injuries in June 2009. His colleagues believed he was killed in revenge for his investigative reporting on corruption among local authorities.

On February 26, the lead investigator of the abduction and killing in July 2009 of prominent journalist and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova announced that authorities knew who had killed her but were unable to make an arrest.

There were no developments in the investigation into the August 2009 shooting death of Dagestani journalist Abdulmalik Akhmedilov in Makhachkala by unknown assailants. Akhmedilov had criticized federal forces and local law enforcement officers for suppressing religious and political dissent; he was also known for his investigative reporting into assassinations of Dagestan officials.

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There were no developments in the investigation into the November 2009 death Olga Kotovskaya of Kaskad TV in Kaliningrad, who fell from the 14th floor of a building. Kotovskaya had just won a court case to regain control of her television station, which had a reputation for objective news reporting. Officials initially claimed that her death was suicide but a week later opened a criminal investigation for killing.

In May two men went on trial in Dagestan charged with the 2008 killing of Gadzhi Abashilov, head of the local branch of the Russian State Television and Radio Company in Makhachkala. In June the Dagestan Supreme Court ordered further investigation into the case, citing legal violations by the investigators. In August investigators released both suspects from custody, stating that the maximum allowable term of pretrial detention had expired. Law enforcement authorities and Abashilov's colleagues believed that his killing was related to his journalistic work, including his reporting on the situation in Dagestan.

There were no reports of progress in the following cases: the 2008 attack on Miloslav Bitokov, editor in chief of the Gazeta Yuga newspaper in the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria; the 2008 beating of independent Khimki journalist Mikhail Beketov, publisher of the weekly Khimkiskaya Pravda;

the 2008 beating of several journalists during a series of protests over planned increases in tariffs on imported cars; and the 2008 attack on Zhanna Akbasheva, a correspondent for the Regnum News Agency in Karachay-Cherkessia, who wrote about corruption and press freedom issues.

In June the Investigative Committee, formerly under the Prosecutor's Office extended the term of the investigation into the 2006 killing of prominent investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya until February 2011. The Investigative Committee announced that it had identified more suspects in the case, and asked a number of EU countries for help apprehending them. In October the Investigative Committee charged Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer who is serving a prison term for extortion, with organizing the killing of Politkovskaya.

Khadzhikurbanov was among the three defendants acquitted of the same charges in

2009. In June 2009 the Supreme Court overturned a February 2009 lower court decision to acquit four suspects, including former FSB officer Pavel Ryaguzov in Politkovskaya's killing.

In April the Investigative Committee maintained that the suspected perpetrator of the 2004 killing of Paul Klebnikov, the former editor in chief of Forbes Russia,

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remained at large. The Prosecutor's Office reactivated the formerly frozen investigation into the journalist's death. Suspects Musa Vakhayev and Kazbek Dukuzov were found not guilty of the killing in 2006. Marat Valeyev, another defendant in the case, was cleared of the charges and released from custody in December 2009.

On September 16, the Investigative Committee resumed its investigation into the 2003 death of Yuriy Shchekochikhin, a member of the State Duma and deputy editor of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Investigators exhumed Shchekochikhin's body and unsuccessfully tested tissue samples to detect any signs of poisoning.

Investigators initially had endorsed official findings that Shchekochikhin died of an allergic reaction to an unknown substance. At the time of his death, Shchekochikhin was investigating allegations of FSB responsibility for a series of 1999 apartment building bombings and the purported involvement of senior security officials and the prosecutor general's office in smuggling goods through FSB storage facilities.



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