Press Group Calls Putin A 'Democratator'

The Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) says Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez represent a new model of government control of the press.

In a new report, the U.S.-based media freedom advocacy group calls Putin and Chavez "democratators" -- popularly elected autocrats.

It says the two leaders have created legal frameworks in their countries to control, intimidate, and censor the news media.

The report notes that 13 journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin took power in 2000.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon told RFE/RL that during a recent visit to Russia, he had discussed the journalists' deaths with government representatives.

"In one of those meetings with the Foreign Ministry, we discussed Russia's terrible record of impunity," Simon said. "Thirteen journalists have been murdered in Russia since [President Vladimir] Putin came to power. None of those cases have been adequately investigated."

Simon said there appears to be "some progress," however, in that some of the cases are being prosecuted. And he noted that Putin last week acknowledged for the first time the vital role that journalists play in Russia.

In its report, the CPJ also says 55 journalists were killed in 2006 while doing their jobs, including 32 covering the Iraq war, most of them Iraqis.

The report also accuses Iranian authorities of taking a "revolving-door approach" to restricting journalists by imprisoning reporters for short periods of time and releasing them before an international outcry can develop.

Copyright (c) 2006. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org