World News

Russia media murders a rights crisis: watchdog

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s failure to solve the murders of journalists such as Anna Politkovksaya amounts to a human rights crisis, a European media freedom watchdog said on Thursday.

A Russian court acquitted earlier on Thursday three men accused of helping murder Politkovskaya, a Kremlin critic, in 2006. The man suspected of pulling the trigger is on the run and prosecutors have not identified who ordered the murder.

“The masterminds have never been put on the bench. The accused were not even the actual killers -- is it not possible to find them or convict them?” asked Miklos Haraszti, media freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“This failure amounts to a human rights crisis,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Haraszti, based in Vienna with the 56-member body that includes Russia, said Moscow had not taken the lead in defending the media or pressing for vigorous criminal investigations.

He said when reporters were killed in other OSCE member states, officials had moved swiftly to bring the killers to justice and prevent further intimidation.

“There can be no word about freedom of the media in a country where editors have to fear the loss of their best and brightest colleagues for doing their work,” he said.

“I would call this organized terror against people who are covering important issues.”

He said government should rethink how it dealt with media. “At the government level there are a lot of ways to handle this, if only there was an official willingness to break the silence on this issue.”

“Without a breakthrough at official level on this human rights crisis, there will be no remedy.”

Haraszti acknowledged that Moscow had made efforts to investigate the Politkovskaya murder but said that institutionally, it was not up to the task.

“The system of justice and law enforcement was unable to do the job and it needs a major overhaul.”

Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Elizabeth Piper