Person of the Week: Elena Milashina

posted 15 Jun 2015, 10:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 15 Jun 2015, 11:59 ]
On 10 June 2015 the Novaya Gazeta newspaper appealed to President Vladimir Putin for an investigation to be conducted into an apparent threat to Elena Milashina, one of its most prominent journalists, in a quasi-official publication, Grozny-Inform. The Moscow Times quoted the offending article written by Mavsar Varaev, deputy editor of Grozny-Inform, as saying: "Let's remember. There was Anna Politkovskaya, [who] used to run around with human rights activists, constantly smearing mud on her motherland and received various kinds of awards for Americans and Europeans. As a result, at the right moment she was killed, and horrible wailing was raised in all liberal media about a police state. If one were to dig into Milashina's biography, about the same is happening with her as with Politkovskaya. The same tactics are being used, and quite probably the next sacrificial victim will be Yelena Milashina, only the triggermen this time will definitely not be from the Caucasus.".

Human Rights Watch pointed out that Grozny-Inform 'is the Chechen Republic’s most widely read media outlet and closely linked to the republic’s leadership'. The editorial 'intoned that Elena Milashina could meet the same fate as Anna Politkovskaya, the Novaya Gazeta journalist murdered in 2006, and Boris Nemtsov, the Russian political opposition leader murdered in March 2015. The editorial claimed both killings were provocations by the United States and Israeli intelligence services, among others, in a bid to destabilize Russia.' Human Rights Watch called on the Russian authorities to promptly and impartially investigate the apparent threats.

The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement which began: The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns death threats issued against Elena Milashina, an award-winning investigative reporter for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and Moscow correspondent for CPJ, and calls on authorities to ensure her safety.'

Human Rights Watch also pointed out that Milashina has been targeted for many years '[...] due to her outspoken accounts of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture in Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading independent newspaper. Earlier in 2015, several officials at a checkpoint in Chechnya told Milashina she had better “watch out” while reporting in Chechnya on the arranged polygamous marriage of a 17-year-old Chechen girl to a Chechen police chief close to Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic. Those threats led Novaya Gazeta to formally demand an investigation, as well as temporarily bar its journalists from traveling to Chechnya. In 2012, two men assaulted Milashina and a friend in what appeared to be a targeted attack in Moscow, leaving her with over a dozen bruises on her head and a missing tooth. Her attackers also robbed her and fled the scene when passersby intervened. The police investigation was half-hearted.' 

In 2009 Human Rights Watch awarded Milashina its Alison Des Forges Award, an award which marks 'the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others'.

Sources and further reading:Anna Dolgov, 'Liberal Russian Paper Calls for Putin's Help to Protect its Journalist,' The Moscow Times, 10 June 2015

'Russia: Investigative Journalist Facing Death Threats', Human Rights Watch, 11 June 2015

'CPJ condemns death threats against Elena Milashina,' calls for investigation, Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 June 2015

'Журналисту «Новой газеты» Елене Милашиной угрожают убийством,' Novaya gazeta, 9 June 2015

Мавсар Вараев, 'США ходят пешками…', Grozny-Inform, 19 May 2015