10 April 2013
The Union of Journalists of Russia with deep regret announces the death on 8 April 2013 of our colleague and journalist, Mikhail Beketov, the founder and chief editor of the newspaper Khimkinsakya Pravda.
Mikhail Beketov was well known for his active civic position and criticism of corruption among the regional authorities, raised the issue of corruption in Khimki and the controversy surrounding the felling of the Khimki Forest to construct a new toll-paying highway from Moscow-St Petersburg. On more than one occasion he was prosecuted by the authorities, was subject to harassment and political terror. He received death threats several times, his car was blown up, and he was a victim of physical attacks. In November 2008 he was severely beaten by unknown persons, and as a result of this attack Mikhail Beketov suffered severe permanent disabilities. Three fingers from his left hand and his left foot were amputated, and he underwent an operation to remove fragments of bone from his brain. He lost the ability to speak and to move about independently.
Mikhail Beketov was awarded a prize by the Union of Journalists of Russia ‘For Courage and Professionalism’, as well as prizes by Reporters without Borders and Die Zeit for his personal and professional fearlessness, and his faith in the principles of the profession of journalist. At the end of 2011 he was awarded a prize by the Russian government for his work as a media professional, and the then prime minister Vladimir Putin personally congratulated him and promised that the investigation into his beating (under Article 111 of the Criminal Code: causing grievous bodily harm) should be actively pursued. Nonetheless, those who perpetrated the attack, which ultimately resulted in the death of our colleague, have yet to be brought to justice.
The Union of Journalists of Russia insists that the investigation into the attack on our colleague be brought to a successful conclusion, and will closely follow the course of the investigation. The tragedy of Mikhail Beketov, who dedicated his life to the profession of journalism and his sense of public duty, and the security and protection of the journalistic community will be among the key themes for discussion at the congress of the Union of Journalists of Russia to be held on 18-19 April 2013. The Union also calls on all international journalists' organizations and NGOs, that work to protect the rights and security of journalists and media workers, to respect the memory of our late colleague who became yet one more victim of violence and impunity, to strengthen the professional solidarity of our community, and to do all that can be done so that such tragedies should never take place again.