Russia in the 21st century has become a largely lawless land, where journalists are especially attacked, harassed and killed for simply do their jobs.
We stand in solidarity with them:
Mikhail Beketov had been warned, but would not stop writing. About dubious land deals. Crooked loans. Under-the-table hush money. All evidence, he argued in his newspaper, of rampant corruption in this Moscow suburb.
“Last spring, I called for the resignation of the city’s leadership,” Mr. Beketov said in one of his final editorials. “A few days later, my automobile was blown up. What is next for me?”
Not long after, he was savagely beaten outside his home and left to bleed in the snow. His fingers were bashed, and three later had to be amputated, as if his assailants had sought to make sure that he would never write another word. He lost a leg. Now 52, he is in a wheelchair, his brain so damaged that he cannot utter a simple sentence.
The police promised a thorough investigation, but barely looked up from their desks. Surveillance videos were ignored. Neighbors were not interviewed. Information about politicians’ displeasure with Mr. Beketov was deemed “unconfirmed,” according to interviews with officials and residents.
Prosecutors, who had repeatedly rejected Mr. Beketov’s pleas for protection, took over the case, but did not seem to accomplish much more. Mr. Beketov’s close colleagues said they were eager to offer insights about who in the government had been stung by his exposés. But no one asked.
Eighteen months later, there have been no arrests.
In retrospect, the violence was an omen, beginning a wave of unsolved attacks and official harassment against journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians around the region, which includes the Moscow suburbs, but not the city itself. Rarely, if ever, is anyone held responsible.
One editor was beaten in front of his home, and the assailants seized only copies of his articles and other material for the next day’s issue, not his wallet or cellphone. Local officials insisted that he sustained his injuries while drunk.
Another journalist was pummeled by plainclothes police officers after a demonstration. It was all captured on video. Even so, the police released a statement saying that he had hurt himself when he was accidentally pushed by the crowd.
These types of attacks or other means of intimidation, including aggressive efforts by prosecutors to shut down news media outlets or nonprofit groups, serve as an unnerving deterrent. And in a few cases in recent years, the violence in the country has escalated into contract killings. Corruption is widespread in Russia, and government often functions poorly. But most journalists and nonprofit groups shy away from delving deeply into these problems.
The culture of impunity in Russia represents the most glaring example of the country’s inability to establish real laws in the two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And this failure radiates throughout society, touching upon ordinary men and women who are trying to carve out lives in the new Russia, but are wary of questioning authority.