After the end of communism, there was hope in Russia that a new day was a-borning in which freedom of speech and the press would now be part of the nation’s experience. But, the arrival of Putin, first to the presidency, and now as prime minister has unleashed forces of hate and violence which stifle the expression of free ideas. The newspaper, Novay Gazeta, has been particularly the target of right wing nationalists who have killed with impunity because the Putin government sits back and smiles when another journalist is silenced by death. Yelena Kostyuchenko, a 21 year old journalist put it this way, “Every two years we lose somebody. But you just have to write, write, write and keep writing. You have to.” The alternative is allowing Putin’s thugs to decide what Russians read.
Since 2000, at least 16 journalists have been murdered in a contract killing style slaying. The killers in most cases just disappear into the void of inattention on the part of authorities. These days, an outspoken reporter in Russia takes self defense classes or hires a bodyguard. Such is life in “democratic Russia” in the era of Putin.