I’ve written several stories here on Palmer Report regarding the torture and murder of gay men held in concentration camps in Chechnya. This was first reported in the Russian Newspaper Novaya Gazeta on April 1st by journalist Elena Milashina. Several weeks ago after receiving constant threats on her life Milashina was forced to leave Russia and is now living in seclusion for her safety. At this point she has no idea when she will be able to return to Moscow.
Two journalists from Novaya Gazeta have been murdered in the past 11 years. Journalist Anna Politkovskaya had been a strong vocal critic of Vladimir Putin and his operations in Chechnya. She was known for her reporting on the Second Chechen War. Politkovskaya was killed in an execution style murder on the block where she lived
In 2009 another journalist from Novaya Gazeta, Natalya Estemirova, was murdered. Estemirova was the human rights reporter who wrote on hidden abuses in Chechnya and Russia. She was abducted, thrown into the trunk of a car and later found murdered outside of Grozny, the capitol of Chechnya.
The reason Amnesty International has started his petition is because on April 3rd, two days after the story broke on the gay concentration camps, over 15,000 people met at a mosque in Grozny. These included many Chechen elders, opinion leaders and Muslim theologians.
Although you’d think they might have held this meeting to discuss the horrors of the gay men being held captive, abused and murdered they were not. The reason for this rushed gathering was not to speak out against this human abuse but to attack and denounce the journalists who had broken this story.
Counselor to the Head of Chechnya, Adam Shakhidov, spoke to the crowds, accusing Novaya Gazeta of spreading lies and calling its staff ‘enemies of our faith and homeland’ (link). Even more concerning is that full speech has been repeatedly broadcast on local state-controlled TV and on social media, exacerbating an already bad situation. The assembly adopted a resolution to ‘promise that the real instigators will face retaliation, irrespective of where and who they are, however long this takes’ – where ‘the instigators’ refers to the journalist, Elena Milashina, who wrote the article for Novaya Gazeta.
Journalists lack the protections we have in American under the First Amendment. According to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists in Russia 56 journalists have been killed since 1992.
Amnesty International is calling for three things in this petition:
1. Investigate the threats to Novaya Gazeta and Ekho Moskvy staff, in accordance with the Russian Criminal Code regarding ‘obstruction of lawful activities of journalists.’
2. Publicly condemn all threats and violence towards journalists, and bring those responsible to account.
3. Guarantee freedom of expression and protect journalists, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
You can sign the petition asking that these threats be investigated and for protection of journalists in Russia and Chechnya on the Amnesty International U.K website (link)