Irwin Gratz, President, (207) 329-6203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Kubiske, International Journalism Committee, (809) 886-9750 or email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists strongly condemns the refusal to extend the press credentials of all ABC television journalists by the Russian Department Foreign Affairs. The move is clearly a retaliatory strike against ABC for its interview with a Chechen rebel leader.
The Society does not in any way support the violent and often criminal tactics of the Chechen rebels. We do believe, however, that issues such as this are best debated and discussed when all the facts are known. The ABC Television correspondents are to be congratulated for their bravery in seeking out and getting the interview with Chechen leader Sjamil Basajev.
We recall that when the U.S. government sought to silence the Voice of America following its exclusive interview with Taliban leaders following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan journalists around the globe, including SPJ, stood up and condemned the government’s action. At that time we said the move by the Administration was in direct violation of the VOA charter and weakened the press freedoms of VOA reporters.
The move by the Russian government also is a violation of the stated goals of that government to move toward more democracy, more individual liberties, and more freedom of speech and media. We remind Russian President Putin and his administrators that only through fair and open reporting can the issues of the day be fully and properly debated. Punishing reporters for doing their jobs smothers free media and encourages rumors rather than facts. The intimidation exhibited by the Russian government against ABC is a clear message to the rest of the foreign media and to Russian media that they too could be the next target unless they stay away from stories or individuals not to the liking of the government.
SPJ calls on the Department of Foreign Affairs to reverse its decision and to apologize to ABC Television. We further call on the U.S. government to publicly express in the strongest possible terms its disgust at the Russian government’s action.
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.