Moscow event salutes the role of journalists


Heart-stirring tributes to killed reporters took place in Moscow during the annual Memorial Day for Russian Journalists event last week.

Svetlana Smirnova, the widow of journalist Alexander Efremov who was killed in Chechnya, along with the couple’s daughter and grand-daughter attended the event, as did family members of other killed journalists.

As a sign of respect for his work, a statue of Efremov has been erected in his home town by his community. President of the Russian Union of Journalists, Vsevolod Bogdanov, showed a miniature of the memorial (see photo), and highlighted the personal and societal loss when a journalist is murdered.

Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Ali Akhmedovich Kamalov, who is also chair of the Journalists Union of Dagestan, appealed for support for funds for a 16-metre-high column to serve as a public monument in Makhachkala for 19 journalists who had lost their lives within his region since 1992.

While there had been no killings in the region in the past three years, he said, it was important to keep alive the memory of those who had lost their lives in the service of informing the public.

UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger, underlined the contribution of journalists to society, the importance of celebrating their work and the need for justice in cases of killings.

He noted that 19 deaths had been recorded by UNESCO since 2006 in the Russian Federation, and that 11 had been judicially resolved according to information supplied by the Russian authorities to the Director-General’s report to the Organization’s International Programme for the Development of Communication.

From the International Federation of Journalists, Oliver Money-Kyrie said that no union had done as much as the Russian Union of Journalists to deal with the issue of journalists as victims of violence. “You are an inspiration to journalists everywhere,” he stated.

The event was accompanied by a seminar on threats and opportunities for regional media in the digital age, organized by the Russian Union of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists and the European Union.

Speaking during the seminar, Berger drew attention to the potential of UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators, Media Viability Indicators, and the Media and Information Literacy country readiness matrix. “Research using these indicators can identify the strengths and weaknesses of regional media, which provides an evidence-base for actions to address the digital opportunities and threats,” he said.

Berger later delivered a lecture about UNESCO’s work at the faculty of journalism at Lomonosov Moscow State University.

The week marked the last day of service as Executive Director of the Russian Union of Journalists by Nadezda Azhgikhina, and her achievements in the position since 2003 were hailed by Ricardo Gutierrez, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists. She will continue to work in the field of journalism development.