Thursday, August 13, 2009

Corruption in Russia Increasingly Deadly for Journalists and Activists

The headline on the Reporters Without Borders homepage today read "Russia: From Bad to Worse." And certainly after the deaths of activist Nataliya Estemirova and journalist Anna Politkovskaya (pictured above) that made international headlines last month, the situation in Russia seems to be quickly deteriorating.

Two human rights activists, Alik Dzhabrailov and his wife Zarema Sadulayeva, were found shot dead in Chechnya on Tuesday, the same day journalist Malik Akhmedilov was found murdered. The deaths have lead to greater government scrutiny and even harsh words from EU representatives.

"It is important that an investigation into these latest murders is conducted promptly, transparently and thoroughly." said the Swedish president. "The perpetrators must be brought to justice."

It is a point that needs to be addressed in a country that has been unable to find or prosecute many human rights and journalism victims, in some cases undoubtedly because of government involvement. Such was the case in the investigation and trial that went no where for slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

The EU Observer reports that two Chechen newspapers pulled out of the country in recent days due to safety concerns. Two NGOs have also left in recent days.

Amnesty International says, "The light of public scrutiny is gradually being turned off in Chechnya. First, international organizations and journalists were banned from the region, and now, local civil society is being eliminated."

Press intimidation can no longer be considered a rare occurrence in the region. Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 141 out of 173 for press freedom.

For an interesting way to grasp the corruption that occurs in the country, this unique graph from Information is Beautiful breaks down how billions of dollars is spent around the world. According to the chart, bribes to Russian officials come in at a staggering $316 billion. That is just under the $320 billion spent on worldwide drug trafficking, not to mention the $54 billion it would take to feed every child in the world for a year, according to the chart.

Photo Credit: AFP

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