Time To Stop Making Excuses

President Medvedev proclaimed in his recent Der Spiegel interview that there is little difference between the rights record of Russia and that of its European counterparts: ‘Our values are the same as yours. I don’t see any major differences in terms of freedom and human rights, especially in comparison to the new EU member states’.

Kati Marton and Nina Ognianova of the Committee to Protect Journalists and authors of the “Anatomy of Injustice” report would beg to differ (and doubtless they wouldn’t be the only ones.)  In an op-ed in the New York Times, they explain why it is crucial that international diplomacy redoubles pressure on Russia to stop the killing of journalists with impunity, following the lead, they say, of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It’s time to stop treating Russia as a ‘handicapped person,'” former Czech President Vaclav Havel said recently, responding to suggestions that Russia cannot be expected to reach democracy anytime soon. He urged that Russia be treated as a “partner country like any other,” applying the same standards to Russia as we do “to Burma, Brazil, the Czech Republic or any other country.” We agree.

During a recent mission by representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists to urge the end of impunity in the killing of journalists in Russia, we were struck by Moscow investigators and prosecutors using the familiar excuses: “Give us time,” they told us. “Russia is where the United States was in the days of the Wild West.”

But a great nation claiming equal status with other great nations cannot plead exemption when it comes to press freedom and human rights. Russia cannot have it both ways.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent censure of impunity in the killing of journalists, as well as her public support for Russia’s embattled human rights defenders, comes at a critical time. Such messages not only boost the morale of the Kremlin’s marginalized critics, they can act as real protection for what is left of Russian civil society. Mrs. Clinton singled out the murders of 18 journalists — only one of which has been solved — when she declared: “When violence like this goes unpunished in any society, it undermines the rule of law, chills public discourse, which is, after all, the lifeblood of an open society, and it diminishes the public’s confidence and trust in their government.”

Read on here.