17 July 2009, 16:00

RUJ Statement on the death of Natalya Estemirova

On Wednesday 15 July our colleague, the well-known human rights activist and journalist Natalya Estemirova was murdered, after being abducted near her home in Grozny. Natalya worked for the Memorial human rights society, wrote for Novaya gazeta, was awarded the first Women in War award (inaugurated in memory of Anna Politkovskaya) and participated in many discussions and programmes organised by the Russian Union of Journalists.

She was a consistent critic of human rights abuses in Chechnya and the North Caucasus as a whole, and was convinced that the determination and courage of those who were not prepared to put up with this lawlessness would win in the end. That was the subject of her articles and her talks: her last publication appeared after her death. That was the belief and cause for which Natalya gave her life.

This murder took place just a month after a report by the International Federation of Journalists was launched in Moscow, concerning violence against those working in the media in Russia. The RUJ forwarded the text of that report and official letters to the Russian President, those in charge of the key ministries and government departments, expressing the hope that together we could overcome this disgraceful stain on our present existence.

The murder of Natalya Estemirova leaves us feeling angry and helpless. Yet we remain convinced that if President Medvedev gives instructions for those responsible to be punished, his orders will be obeyed. We are heartened by the fact that, for the first time in many years, the leader of the country has immediately reacted to such a tragedy with a firm and principled response. We feel sure our colleagues will display solidarity and not let this crime be forgotten. Together journalists and NGOs in Russia must demand that the authorities carry out the orders of the president and let society know how the investigation is proceeding.

We are sure those responsible for the murder will be punished and that the killing with impunity of journalists will come to an end in Russia. The Russian Union of Journalists is beginning a campaign to expose and combat violence against the media in Russia. It calls on all who are concerned about the future of journalism to join us.

Russian Union of Journalists
4 Zubovsky Boulevard

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