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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Reports Criticize Media Freedom

Media freedom in Russia is comparable to that in Azerbaijan and the Democratic Republic of Congo and growing worse, two U.S.-based media watchdogs said ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Thursday.

The U.S. State Department also criticized Russian media freedom this week and expressed "grave concern" over the October killing of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya.

The three salvos should prompt a sharp protest from Moscow, which has rebuked previous assessments as biased and unfair. The Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment about the latest criticism.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in a report issued Wednesday that Russia had slipped badly over the past five years, earning it a spot on a list of 10 backsliders that also included Azerbaijan, Cuba, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Thailand and a group of African countries.

"The backsliders reflect a mixture of relatively open countries that have turned increasingly repressive and traditionally restrictive nations where press conditions, remarkably, have worsened," the report said.

Russia ranked third worst, better than Ethiopia and Gambia but worse than the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The report said a key factor indicating a deterioration in Russian media freedom was a recent law that defines extremism as the "public slander toward figures fulfilling state duties," among other things.

The second report, released Tuesday by the Freedom House, lumped Russia between Azerbaijan and Brunei near the bottom of a list of 195 countries. Russia fell six places from last year to the 165th spot. It has the status of "not free."

On Monday, the State Department issued a report that identified Russia as one of the worst violators of media freedom, together with Afghanistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Philippines and Venezuela.

The State Department also called on Russia to find the killers of Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. The murder was an "affront to free and independent media and to democratic values," the report said.

CPJ's report says 11 journalists have been murdered in Russia in the last five years, but none of the cases has been solved, and it said the number of imprisoned journalists is on the rise.

Fifty to 60 attacks were carried out against journalists last year, said Mikhail Melnikov, a researcher at the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations.

He said he agreed with the U.S. assessments on the state of media freedom in Russia.

Igor Yakovenko, head of the Russian Union of Journalists, also said he found the reports to be fair.

"Despite numerous shortcomings and problems with their methodologies, the reports are true on the whole," he said.

But Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-linked political analyst, said foreign organizations could not provide an unbiased overview of Russian media freedom.

"Their judgments are inadequate and based on a phobia of Russia as a superpower," Markov said.