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Parliament hears voice of independent Russian media

Human rights - 23-11-2006 - 13:00
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What people can write and read in Russia was debated

To what extent the media is free in Russia was the subject of a hearing held by Parliament's human rights subcommittee this week. The meeting was dedicated to the memory of campaigning Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya who was murdered on 7 October. She had been a fierce critic of the Kremlin and in particular the Russian army's behaviour in Chechnya. Hers is the latest in a series of deaths, disappearances and arrests of independent journalists in Russia.

Opening the meeting Hélène Flautre, the French Green Party MEP who chairs the human rights subcommittee, put it bluntly when she said that "Anna Politkovskaya was murdered because she told the truth. The European Parliament is also in search of justice and truth".
Vitaliy Yarochevskiy - deputy editor of the newspaper she worked on - told the hearing that "there is no independent media left in Russia" and that "the heads of TV stations are clones of each other, which spread the regime's propaganda". He also questioned to what extent the police were looking for the killers of his friend and colleague.
Criticism of the government of Vladimir Putin also came from Marie Mendras - an academic based in Paris. She told the hearing that Russia was becoming "more and more authoritarian" and thought that the country had a "system of impunity" for criminals.
Democracy, human rights should be central to future EU-Russia accords say MEPs
Following the death of Mrs Politkovskaya, MEPs adopted a resolution calling for democracy, human rights and freedom of expression to be put at the centre if any future agreements the EU adopts with Russia. MEPs also called on the Russian authorities to find her murderers as soon as possible.
Tomorrow the leaders of Russia and the EU meet in Helsinki for summit. Writing in the Financial Times newspaper ahead of the meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "Europe has nothing to fear from Russia". He also said that "we should respect the historical diversity of European civilization" and "not force artificial standards on one another".
Energy is usually a big subject at such meetings as 24% of the EU's gas and 25% of its oil is imported from Russia. At an informal summit last month - Parliament's President Josep Borrell warned that Europe could not "exchange human rights for energy resources".
The last word should go to Anna Politkovskaya - in the wake of her death an unpublished article of hers mentioned the death threats she had received for writing about the war in Chechnya.
REF.: 20061123STO00262