OSCE Hears Testimony About Press Freedoms

By: E&P Staff The Commission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) heard testimony from a journalist and several directors of various freedom of the press organizations yesterday.

According to Scripps Howard Foundation wire reports and OSCE press releases, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D--Fla.), the Helsinki Commission chairman, and commissioners including Representatives Mike McIntyre (D--N.C.), Joseph R. Pitts (R--P.A.), Christopher R. Smith (R--N.J.), and Hilda Solis (D--C.A.) heard testimony from Nina Ognianova, the program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia Programs from the Committee to Protect Journalists; Paula Schriefer, the director of Advocacy from Freedom House; and Fatima Tlisova, a Russian emigree and former journalist.

Tlisova, who is from Karachaevo-Cherkesiya, one of the six Northern Caucasus republics, told the Commission her ordeal at the hands of Russia's intelligence agency, the Federal Special Service (FSS). Tlisova formerly worked for the Associated Press, among other assignments. After exposing corruption and human rights abuses, she was beaten, tortured, kidnapped, and sickened with poison. Her relatives were also threatened, and her 16-year-old son detained by police for no apparent reason. Her renewal request for credentials from the Russian Military of Foreign Affairs was

This tale of abuse upon Eastern European reporters is not unique; since 2000, the inaugural year of Russian president Vladimir Putin, 14 journalists have been murdered in apparent retaliation for their professional activities. One of the more high profile cases involved Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and famous critic of Putin's government, who was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building last year. Politkovskaya also worked on Northern Caucasus issues, and was friends with Tlisova.

The Northern Caucasus is one of the most critical areas for Russian news media, as it is where the two Chechen wars took place in the 1990s, and where fighting continues today.

Tlisova now lives in Pennsylvania with her daughter and son. She received a scholarship at Harvard University to attend a human rights course, and is currently writing a book about the recent history of Karachaevo-Cherkesiya.

Hastings noted that the subject at hand was "a complex and voluminous one, "and added that Tlisova's "harrowing personal experiences demonstrate the extremes to which certain forces will go in order to suppress the distribution of information.

"The unfortunate fact," Hastings told the Commission, "is that according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Russian Federation has become the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Algeria."

Tlisova expressed her hope that through a proposed program allowing Russian journalists from the Northern Caucasus to study abroad, "when these people return, they will be able to form a base for the independent media."

An unofficial transcript of the entire hearing, titled "Freedom of the Media in the OSCE Region" will be made available on the official OSCE Web site, www.csce.gov


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