A new foundation with a starting fund of $5million has been set up to investigate violent crimes against journalists who were targeted because of their investigative stories
Justice for Journalists – a Foundation for International Investigations of Crime against Media – will provide organisational, political, advocacy and financial support to professional investigative groups worldwide to “discover, disclose and bring to justice those who are responsible for committing crimes against media”.
The website lists the names of 847 journalists killed between 1992 and 2018 – including Daphne Caruana Galizia, whose 10-month anniversary of the bomb explosion was marked on Thursday evening in a vigil in Valletta.
The new foundation was set up in July by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, founder of Open Russia pro-democracy movement, Amnesty International-recognized prisoner of conscience, and one of Putin’s most prominent critics.
Together with his former business partner Leonid Nevzlin, Khodorkovsky pledged the starting sum of $5 million.
The very month the foundation was created, three Russian journalists were murdered in the Central African Republic while investigating Wagner, a private Russian mercenary group reported to be overseen by catering magnate Evgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Putin and the head of the infamous Troll Factory.
“The murder of three journalists in the Central African Republic who were collaborating with one of my research initiatives has deeply affected me. Crimes against journalists is a global problem, Khodorkovsky said.
Each year dozens of journalists are killed across the world, and the majority of these crimes remain unresolved. “The way I see it, the Justice for Journalists Foundation is one way of fighting against impunity. We are hoping to collaborate with journalists and human rights organisations and individual journalists who believe that those who commit crimes against journalists should be brought to justice,” he added.
An investigation into the murder of Kiril, Alexander and Orkhan could become the Foundation’s first priority case, Khodorkovsky said.
Freedom of the press and democracy vitally depend on one another. It is vital that important investigative work is protected, and that those who wish to silence independent journalism are brought to account, the foundation said.
It aims to bring the journalistic community and human rights activists together in solidarity to organise and coordinate international investigations into violent crimes committed against journalists irrespective of where they took place and the motives behind them.
The vast majority of murders of journalists remain unpunished, and there currently exists no international mechanism for pursuing and obtaining justice. “This is a call to action, and this foundation is a pathway to justice,” the foundation said.
The foundation is run by an advisory board and a network of experts and investigators, drawing from a wide range of renowned professionals including Guardian journalist Luke Harding and Wall Street Journal special correspondent on Russian Affairs David Satter .