Oct. 4, 2012 Daily Beast
The country’s top human-rights journalists are being threatened and killed in broad daylight in a brutal campaign of intimidation to stop them from reporting on torture and killings in the Caucasus—and some think the government is to blame.
Tatayana (Tanya) Lokshina reported on egregious human-rights abuses in Russia for years. Only her close friends knew of the risks she faced working on long trips in conflict regions in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Her priority was to tell the stories of people in trouble, and she never talked about the personal danger she often found herself in. But this week, Lokshina—who is now the deputy director for Human Rights Watch in Moscow and a recipient of the Andrei Sakharov journalism award (Russia’s equivalent of a Pulitzer)—couldn’t keep silent any longer. She invited journalists to a press conference and declared that she was being followed around the city, and that somebody had been sending her text messages threatening to murder her unborn baby.
The author of the text messages seemed well informed about the 39-year-old Lokshina’s upcoming trip to Dagestan, as well as of her pregnancy term, the sex of her baby and her home address—“operative information that could be obtained only by special services,” Lokshina said. One of the text messages arrived right at the moment when her husband’s airplane took off. “Now you are alone,” it said.
Reporters Without Borders activists demonstrate with photos of (from left) Russian human-rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasiya Baburova, and Anna Politkovskaya on Jan. 21, 2009, in Berlin after Markelov and Baburova were gunned down in Moscow. (MICHAEL KAPPELER)
There is something seriously wrong in Russia: the country’s most-experienced and famous human-rights reporters are being threatened and killed in broad daylight. Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006; Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were killed on the street, less than half a mile from the Kremlin, in January 2009. The same year, in August, a group of men kidnapped Natalya Estemirova from her house in Grozny, killed her and left her body on the side of a road. Last December, Khadjimurat Kamalov, a publisher, was shot outside of his Chernovik newspaper office in Dagestan. Each of them had received similar threats prior to the day of their murder.
In a video presented at the press conference, Human Rights Watch’s executive director Kenneth Roth assured the Russian government that “these threats will have precisely the opposite effect—that Human Rights Watch will double our efforts to do our work in Russia, to defend the rights of the Russian people against this crackdown and other threats that they encounter.” He also vowed that the perpetrators behind the threats to Lokshina and her child would be brought to justice. Human Rights Watch has been working in Russia for 20 years, “in much darker times,” Roth said, “and will certainly continue.” Read More