Unfortunately journalists still die in extreme situations as often as two or three years ago. Since we have already touched upon the theme of Chechnya at this conference, it probably makes sense to raise the issue of covering the second Chechen campaign, which is called “antiterrorist operation” by the Kremlin. First of all, because it was a serious ordeal for both Russian and foreign journalists, who used to work at the first war and who are now working at the second war. During the first war, journalists lost 20 colleagues. Dozens of journalists were beaten up. Dozens were wounded. A great number of journalists were subject to persecutions. Their films, even radio equipment of the journalists transmitting their materials to radio stations, were illegally confiscated. From the start of the second campaign 5 journalists have died, three of whom were Chechens (9 Chechen journalists died during the first campaign). These three journalists died at about the same time -October 27-28 last year. This is what regards the work of journalists at war.
If we speak about what happens at peace, we have to note that the number of victims is unfortunately not reduced. We currently have the list of the journalists who perished on the territory of Russia during peace: out of ten we can definitely name only 5 journalists who died when performing their professional duties. I make this clarification as the vast majority of Western organizations dealing with the protection of human rights names only those who died with cameras in their hands or at the editorial office, that is, when it is absolutely evident that their death occurred at the point of performing professional duties.
Unfortunately, on the territory of the former Soviet Union, in CIS countries, journalists are very often killed out of working hours but for the same reasons. It is enough to name one of such journalists that was attacked and killed in Moscow; it is Igor Domnikov, a correspondent of “Novaya Gazeta” newspaper.
I would like to shift the accent of our conference, to speak a little about the state terrorism, the state violence against journalists, because in reality the journalists who cover terrorism or terrorist attackы always experience the pressure of the state to a certain degree. The idea of terrorism against journalists is applicable when the state tries to get rid of this or that journalist. I am so vague in saying “the state”, because we are still unable to say who stood behind these assassinations. In the same way we are unable to say we ordered the attack on Igor Dolokhov. It is only known that he had published a few stories about the corruption in the government of Russia and a day after the assault his article was to be published, telling about the funding of the Presidential campaign of V. Putin.
However Russia is not a unique case in such treatment of journalists. It should be noted that during the past 9 years we have dozens of names of journalists dead almost every year. The top of the list belongs to Tajikistan. Since 1992 on the territory of this country under different circumstances over 70 journalists lost their lives. Even in this case I am forced to say “over”, “less”, or “about”, because there have been practically no investigations conducted in connection with the assassinations of journalists in Tajikistan. And I, as a former Tajik journalist, can assert it with certain confidence that there are cases, when the journalists died not as a result of an assault, but as a result of despair, of the hard living conditions they found themselves in after they had lost their jobs. By the end of 1992, the existing authorities of Tajikistan have shut down over 30 independent newspapers.
The second place in this sad list belongs to Ukraine. In Ukraine, where five or six years ago journalists tried to create the new independent journalism, in this very country the list of the journalists dead is the strangest. It is strange, because the death of the journalists is explained in most paradoxical ways. Thus, for example, three years ago P. Shevchenko, a journalist of one of the most popular Ukrainian newspapers was found hung. His colleagues still doubt that it was a suicide. In the same way the colleagues and the relatives of the head of “Sovershenno Sekretno” media holding Artyom Borovik still doubt his death being accidental. This list can be continued.
On the other hand, journalists are cold-blooded in their filming the arrest scenes, when the suspects are being beaten up by the militia. The journalist says nothing at this moment about the law being infringed. It is difficult to determine the degree of journalistic responsibility. It seems to me, we merely forget one very important part of the journalist’s work: to tell the truth. To tell the truth – is this or that political fraction going to like it?
Why do we see the events in Chechnya only by the shootings of Western journalists? Why do we see the journalists sitting on the troop carriers, sometimes even dressed in military uniforms? Or see a journalist who is awarded a gun by General Kazantsev? Is this a journalist? Terrorism can be fought through truth only and not through restricting the work of the journalist.
This material was published in collection of International Conference Extracts “Journalists against terrorism and violence”. Yerevan, October 25-26, 2000.
International Conference Extracts “Journalists against terrorism and violence”