UNHRC: Oral statement on impunity for attacks against journalists in Russia

Article 19 delivered the following oral statement to the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 

Thank you Mr. President,

ARTICLE 19 urges the Russian Federation to support the Council in adopting a strong resolution on ending impunity for attacks on journalists and media workers, focused on giving practical guidance to States, on the various concrete actions that should be employed to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers.

We call on the Russian Federation to stand by its commitments made as part of its 2nd Universal Periodic Review in 2013 and broader human rights obligations to protect journalists and media workers.

While accepting recommendations as part of its 2013 UPR, the Russian Federation stated that law enforcement agencies: place high priority on investigating and preventing such crimes.

Yet since the UPR in April last year two more journalists have been murdered in Russia – Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev in July 2013 and Timur Kuashev in August 2014 – and impunity remains the hallmark in the investigations into the cases of murdered journalists: the masterminds behind the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya remain at large, while there has been little or no progress into the killings of Natalia Estemirova (in 2009) and Khadijmurad Kamalov (in 2011). All these journalists and media workers were subject to harassment and death threats prior to being murdered.

Akhmednabiyev, a reporter for Caucasian Knot, and deputy editor of independent newspaper Novoye Delo, actively reported on human rights violations against Muslims by the police and Russian army. He was shot and killed on 9 July 2013 in Dagestan following a previous murder attempt in January 2013. That case was wrongly filed as property damage, and was not reclassified and linked to his professional activities as a journalist until after his death, demonstrating a failure by the Russian authorities to investigate the motive behind the attack, and to prevent and protect.

More than a year later, neither the perpetrators nor instigators behind Akhmednabiyev’s murder have been found and his case is suspended. We call on the Russian federal authorities to reopen the investigation.

The Russian Federation is failing to respond adequately to crimes against journalists and media workers, including murders, physical attacks and threats, creating a climate of impunity that only encourages more severe violations of freedom of expression. Not a single case documented by ARTICLE 19 since 2000, has been fully solved – with instigators and the vast majority of perpetrators remaining at large*. Each case represents an attack on journalists and media workers as individuals and against the right of all people to seek, receive and impart information.

We also call on the Russian Federation and all States to support national, sub-regional and regional, and international human rights mechanisms and bodies, including the universal periodic review, special procedures, and treaty bodies, in promoting and protecting the safety of journalists. In particular, they must cooperate with UNESCO and respond positively to their enquiries for information regarding measures taken to ensure the safety of journalists.


Timur Kuashev, a 26 year old civil society activist and journalist for DOSH magazine was found dead on 01 August 2014, in a forest, in Kabardino-Balkaria, a day after disappearing from his home. He wrote about human rights including abuses by security forces, had been subject of harassment as a result of his work. Like Akhmednabiyev he had previously received a number of death threats. We welcome the recent news that Kuashev’s case is likely to be reviewed by the Federal Investigative Committee. The Russian authorities must ensure they meet their commitments and obligations by placing a high priority on investigating Kuahev’s murder, along with Akhmednabiyev’s in an effective, speedy and independent manner to prevent impunity from prevailing as it has done in so many other cases.

While the conclusion, in June 2014, of the third trial relating to the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, 48, now means a total of six perpetrators are serving custodial sentences for carrying out her murder, after almost 8 years the Russian authorities have still failed to bring the masterminds to justice meaning impunity for her murder still remains.

The North Caucasus is a region notably deadly for journalists, which also has the highest level of impunity. Khadjimurad Kamalov, 46, Editor-in-Chief of Chernovik newspaper, a vocal critic of corruption and abuse of power, particularly by the police was murdered December 2011 in Makhachkala, Dagestan. His case has still not been transferred to court, with the alleged perpetrators only found following public pressure. Similarly the July 2009 murder of Natalia Estemirova, 51, a human rights defender and journalist, found killed in Ingushetia after being kidnapped from Chechnya remains unresolved. The State failed to take fully into account evidence provided by independent investigators in 2011, and little to no progress has been made in recent years.