Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has today expressed concern over the attack perpetrated in Grozny, Chechnya, against the Russian investigative journalist Elena Milashina of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and lawyer Marina Dubrovina. On 6 February they were brutally assaulted by unknown assailants at the entrance to their hotel.
According to the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists, Ms Milashina believes she was targeted because of her profession: in spring 2017, the award-winning journalist exposed the arrest, torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya. The journalist noted that she had been threatened by Chechen authorities because of her reporting in the past.
“The Russian authorities must ensure the safety and security of Ms Milashina and Ms Dubrovina, carry out a prompt, independent and effective investigation, and punish those responsible for organising and committing this offence. Several Novaya Gazeta journalists have previously been targeted and a number of them have been killed, including the famous investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya,” said Mr Schennach.
“I fully agree with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović that the climate of hostility against independent civil society activists, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in Chechnya is often fomented by virulent and threatening speech by political leaders, including at the highest levels. This leads to impunity for those who commit these serious human rights violations,” he said.
“In a recently-adopted resolution, the Assembly called on the Russian authorities to immediately address the worrying situation concerning violence against journalists, with most cases remaining unpunished. This situation is unacceptable. Russia must uphold its obligation to ensure that journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders can work safely and freely,” added the General Rapporteur.
“This case is being monitored by the Platform. No reaction from the Russian authorities has so far been received,” he concluded.