National Press Club

NPC Sends Letter of Concern to Putin

May 14, 2007

The National Press Club has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing the Club's concern about press freedom in Russia. The text of the letter follows:

Dear President Putin:

News of the death of Boris Yeltsin, the first popularly elected president of post-Soviet Russia, called to mind the great sense of optimism that surrounded his ascent in the wake of changes initiated under Mikhail Gorbachev. Many people in your nation and around the world hailed the prospect of a free and democratic Russia, and harbored hope that the fruits of liberty might nourish the hopes and aspirations of its people.

A similar optimism continued when you ascended to the presidency, but now we at the National Press Club are troubled by recent developments in Russia. We believe that a free and energetic community of journalists is essential to any country aspiring to greatness, yet there are signs that press freedom in Russia is under serious threat. The Russian News Service has been forbidden to mention of the names of opposition politicians, and that is clearly inconsistent with a free press. And reports that police beat protesters at recent political demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg are all the more troubling for evidence that those attacked and detained included journalists who attended to report on the events for the Russian people.

But what worries us the most is the fact that, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 13 working journalists have been slain in Russia since March 2000. Most notable among these cases is that of Anna Politkovskaya, whose brave reports on Russia's leadership and the war against Chechnya were models for the kind of service journalists must provide to hold their governments accountable.

We, as colleagues of Anna's, want you to know that the world community of journalists is watching events in Russia with grave concern. We ask that you and the Russian law enforcement authorities take seriously these crimes against working journalists, because the aggressive investigation and prosecution of these cases will keep Russian journalists safer and Russia freer.


Jerry Zremski
The National Press Club