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Press Release
The global media alliance investigating the July 2004 murder of Paul Klebnikov, the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine


On the first anniversary of the assassination of Paul Klebnikov – the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes and the first American reporter murdered in Russia – we are announcing the formation of an international alliance of investigative reporters and media outlets to address the murder, as well as pursue story lines that may have led to it.

Project Klebnikov brings together a wide range of journalists, some publicly and some anonymously, from all media categories. Individual reporters, editors, producers and publishers from the full range of wire services, broadcast networks, magazines and leading newspapers are pledging their participation. The publicly identifiable founding institutional members include Bloomberg, Forbes and Vanity Fair.


On a warm, summer night last July 9th, the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine finished his work and left his Moscow office building, where a car with tinted windows lay waiting. He was shot nine times, leaving behind a tight-knit family, a noble career and a plethora of unfinished projects and unanswered questions.

With the death of Paul Klebnikov – the only American reporter to be murdered in Russia – the world has lost one of its foremost journalistic experts on the murky crossroads of Russian organized crime, politics, law enforcement and big business. Indeed, Paul was a living and breathing database of information -- on the links between oligarchs, Chechen terrorists, Kremlin politics, the Russian intelligence agencies, and the spread of mob conglomerates around the globe.

Each day brings fresh news out of Russia that affects the world and warrants deeper examination. Unfortunately, much of it goes unreported. The government’s crackdown on the independent press is escalating. While there are many brave and talented investigative journalists working today in Russia, it’s getting a lot harder for them to do their jobs effectively – and survive.

At least 12 reporters have been murdered in contract-style hits since the Putin government came to power - the latest on June 28 - and not a single case has been solved, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which just completed a conference in Moscow with the families of the victims. As Paul himself wrote about how the big business of murder was undermining Russia: “The police solve only a fraction of these contract killings. There simply is no political will to enforce the law.”

And so it falls to Paul’s colleagues working outside of Russia to assist their Russian colleagues. Today marks the public launch of Project Klebnikov, a global alliance of investigative journalists determined to shed light on Klebnikov's assassination and to explore some of the sensitive subjects Paul was trying to unravel.

The alliance will assist those reporting on Paul's murder as well as those pursuing some of the intertwined threads of corruption and intrigue that dominate Russia today. We will use our collective experience and our willingness to share background information that is too burdensome for any single news entity to collect. We will reinforce, supplement and stand behind what Russian journalists are doing in a very difficult environment. And we will do our best to ensure that reporting will move forward no matter what, thereby reducing the risk to any one journalist.

A website is available as of today to anyone with an interest in the case, from reporters to government officials to potential sources. It will evolve, slowly but surely, along with the steady work of the alliance. While investigative reporting, even in America, appears to have hit a low ebb in public perceptions lately, we believe the need for it has never been greater.

On June 16, just weeks before the first anniversary of the murder, Putin's Prosecutor General announced that fugitive Chechen rebel leader and former Moscow gang boss Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev - a man exposed in Klebnikov's 2003 book, "Conversation with a Barbarian" – was the mastermind behind the plot. Russia deserves credit for making the case a priority, but many in Moscow believe the explanation to be more expedient than persuasive. For one thing, the authorities have presented no evidence to back up their conclusion. And corruption is so endemic within the Moscow police that a lack of cooperation between the police and the Prosecutor-General has long hindered many investigations.

Putin has promised to bring a “dictatorship of law” in Russia, and he is making progress on numerous fronts. But, as even Klebnikov understood, “a real democracy can be built only on the foundation of a vigorous civil society -- hundreds of thousands of institutions and associations operating independently from the state.” Otherwise, he added, “the role of people is like the role of the crowd in a football match…. it will take years, perhaps a whole generation, to develop Russia’s civic infrastructure.”

In short, given the susceptibility of Russia's judicial system to outside influence, as well as the clampdown on the Russian media, the Nukhayev theory needs to be vigorously tested and the evidence disclosed.

That much was underscored by last week’s Bloomberg report that six days after Russia announced the case was solved the U.S. government formally convened an inter-agency group to monitor the progress of the Russian investigation. The State Department-led group includes the CIA, FBI, National Security Council and Department of Justice. They are now exploring whether there is any basis for opening a parallel U.S. criminal investigation of a terrorist act.

Over the past few months, Project Klebnikov has been gathering information on the themes and threads of Paul's work that may have led to his assassination. The Nukhayev theory is one of several major alternative theories that need to be followed. We must now call on the talent and insight of our colleagues in Moscow and Washington and wherever else the story leads to shed light on the shadowy interests that consumed Paul.

For more information about the alliance and its participants, please visit www.projectklebnikov.org

Richard Behar
Project Klebnikov
520 Hudson Street,
New York, NY 10014 USA
1-212-479-7788 (tel)
1-212-620-0588 (fax)
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