Sunday, October 22, 2006

Rice Says Fate of Russian Journalists "Major Concern",
Keeps straight face, senior aides said "giggling"

BBC News, 22nd October 2006

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has met relatives and colleagues of a murdered journalist during a visit to the Russian capital Moscow.

Anna Politkovskaya, a harsh critic of President Vladimir Putin and Russian policy in Chechnya, was gunned down in her apartment building two weeks ago.

Dr. Rice said the fate of journalists in Russia was "a major concern", with an expression of the utmost gravity.

"Journalists should be able to operate in an environment of safety and security," Ms. Rice said Saturday, to a stunned audience in Moscow. "A free press requires that news agencies should be able to operate without intimidation, harassment or the threat of violence."

"Russia must act to protect reporters from those who would harm or even kill them. It is unacceptable that the agents of a free press should face the risk of death while doing their jobs," she added, without indicating even the slightest hint of self-awareness.

Since the fall of the Berlin wall, many Russian journalists have been sacked for reporting on stories in a manner that displeased the government. Many have been driven out of the media altogether and there many journalists have been attacked or murdered, and most news sources are now viewed as little more than propaganda machines.

"A free media is the cornerstone of a democratic society," Dr. Rice added, before bursting into laughter and slapping the lectern. "Yeah, and we also condemn official corruption and secrecy in the Russian government, their militarism and lack of respect for human rights!"

President Vladimir Putin was unavailable for comment, which is probably just as well.

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