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The Media Iron Curtain in Russia, The Third Deadliest Country for Journalists

July 1, 2009

In Russia, media censorship is taking place in the form of secret police intimidation and increasingly, the beatings and murders of those who dare to report on government wrongdoings.

Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, the former Editor on Chief of the Russian newspaper Koruptsiya i Kriminal, died yesterday after two months in a coma incurred from being beaten in front of his home. The authorities have refused to investigate the death, claiming first that Yaroshenko was in a street fight and then changing their story to later say he fell off a ladder.

The newspaper’s name translates to Corruption and Crime and indeed Yaroshenko’s paper dedicated itself to exposing government corruption and criminality among the Russian police.

“I don’t have even the smallest doubt,” said former colleague Sergey Sleptsov, about the possibility of government involvement in the death. “Our newspaper was published on eight pages; seven of them were allotted to corruption in the law enforcement structures.” The paper intends to hold its own investigation into the death.

“There is an urgent need for an impartial investigation into all the circumstances of Yaroshenko’s death,” says Reporters Without Borders. “The Russian authorities cannot keep covering up crimes of violence against journalists by pretending they were accidents and leaving those responsible at large, completely unpunished.”

Russia is the third deadliest country in the world for journalists and the ninth worst in solving reporters’ killings, according to CPJ.

His death comes just five days after a retrial was ordered in the killing of another Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya was a vocal Kremlin critic and in her case, the four men accused of killing her were originally acquitted and so far no investigation has been made into who ordered her killing.

Seventeen journalists have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances since 2000 according to CPJ.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.