Murder of Russian journalist 'routine'

The murder of journalists has become so routine in Russia that new killings no longer cause shock.

This alarming claim came from Igor Yakovenko, general secretary of the Union of Russian Journalists, after a well-known provincial editor was shot in his car this week.

Valery Ivanov, 32, editor-in-chief of the Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye in the Volga city of Togliatti and head of the private television channel Lada-TV, was killed with a pistol which was left at the scene.

Journalists at his newspaper said his murder was almost certainly linked to his exposés of corruption among local officials and ties between mafia gangs and the city’s AvtoVAZ factory, which makes Lada cars.

In one report, his paper alleged officials had stolen around £22m of public money.

"The most awful thing is that the news of the murder will neither agitate nor perturb the public," warned Yakovenko.

"A murder of a journalist has become a daily routine in today’s Russia and society has forgotten how to react to it".

More than 200 journalists had been killed in the decade since the fall of the red flag, he said.

"Journalists will be treated in this manner until the whole journalistic society wakes up and realises that it has to learn how to protect itself."

The group Reporters Sans Frontières voiced outrage at the murder and urged interior minister Boris Gryzlov to "do everything possible to find those responsible and bring them to trial".

But many journalists in the country believe that the police fail to protect them and to properly investigate contract killings.

Witnesses gave police a description of Ivanov’s killer but it is fairly rare that such murderers are arrested and brought to justice.

"Today Russia has become the most dangerous country in Europe for journalists," said Robert Menard, secretary general of Reporters Sans Frontières.

"Reporters address matters of corruption in the regions at their peril."

by Will Stewart in Moscow

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