In the 12 years since Vladimir Putin has been in power, many journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya, have been killed – now, with a new term ahead, how many more will die?
So, at least four more Putin years … and how many more dead journalists? Let’s look back on the president-and-then-PM’s first 12 years of power (using International Press Institute figures).
In 2011, three journalists dead (including newspaper editor Khadzhimurad Kamalov, shot 14 times as he left his office). In 2010, two killed; in 2009, five more (including a young reporter from Novaya Gazeta, caught in a hail of bullets). Add four for 2008, one in 2007 and then 2006 as Anna Politkovskaya, the most famous victim of them all, is murdered. But she wouldn’t forget Yevgeny Gerasimenko – found in his Saratov flat with a plastic bag pulled over his head and computer missing – and nor should we.
Two Russian journalists died in 2005, and three in both 2004 and 2003; but 2002 was a wicked year, with eight lost (including Valery Ivanov, battling editor, shot in the head) and 2001 added another victim. Putin’s reign of power in 2000 began with six dead reporters and editors: a grim portent, looking back, of bad things to come.
There are other countries in the world where journalists repeatedly perish in the course of duty, to be sure: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico. And Russia has terrorists and rebellions of its own to deal with as well. But the drip, drip, drip of journalists’ blood, year in and year out, crimes scantily investigated and rarely brought to any conclusion, is still deeply dismaying.
Vladimir Putin is the supposed strong man at the centre of a nation that seeks to play a decisive role in world affairs. He is elected time and again. Yet a free press seems to mean pitifully little to him. You investigate? You report? You die, unavenged.
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