Reporters Without Borders, an international journalist rights association, criticized the lack of free press in the Russian Caucasus republics in its report on Thursday.
The Russian Journalists’ Union in turn said reporters in the North Caucasus were free to express their views and that they got attacked no more often than in other regions.
After their tour of Chechnya and Dagestan in September, Reporters Without Borders, a French-based non-profit organization, said journalists had to work in war conditions amid corruption, which the Russian Journalists’ Union denied.
“Journalists do get attacked in the North Caucasus but no more than in other regions, let’s not forget that it is mostly police and religious activists who get attacked in that part of the country,” said Mikhail Fedotov, secretary of the Russian Journalists’ Union and head of the president’s civil rights council.
Reporters Without Borders condemned the lack of the freedom of opinion in Chechnya, human rights violations, corruption, and the cult of Kremlin-backed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.
In Dagestan, they said journalists had more freedom but often fell victim to violence and suffered from economic difficulties.
Fedotov praised Russian law-enforcement bodies for making progress in the investigation of the case of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya. A staunch critic of the war in Chechnya and of then President Vladimir Putin, Politkovskaya was gunned down in 2006. In September, former police Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was charged with organizing the murder.
Fedotov also said the Russian Human Rights Council had come up with amendments to the Criminal Code, stipulating a tougher six-year sentence for attacks on journalists.
A total of 76 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992, according to the U.S.-based journalists’ welfare group Committee to Protect Journalists. It says 52 of those were murdered in direct reprisal for their work.