JEFF CAPLAN

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: A deadly career choice — journalists in Russia

Mar 3, 2022, 7:15 AM
Journalists in Russia have been threatened and killed for doing their jobs....
A journalist walks inside a damaged gym following shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Russian forces have escalated their attacks on crowded cities in what Ukraine's leader called a blatant campaign of terror. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)
(Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

Editor’s note: This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

DATELINE — Twenty years ago, I met with a woman visiting from Russia. She was the program director of a news radio station in Moscow. She flew here to see how did profitable news radio in America.

I’d like to believe that everyday Muscovites tuned in for years, and got their traffic and weather together on the vyo-shems.

But I have no doubt her station is no longer on the air in Moscow because independent voices have been silenced. Yet another Russian radio station, Echo Moscova, was pulled off the air. And the reporters there should consider themselves fortunate to be jobless.

For years, the Oligarchs have been killing journalists in Russia who dared to expose the inner workings of their kleptocracy. For a while, there was a rhythm to investigative pieces. First, journalists would report, then would come the gunfire. Usually on the street.

At last count, 21 journalists in Russia have headstones as their final byline.

But one Russian critic still lives, thanks to a trick played by the Ukrainians three years ago.

After learning of a plot to kill popular Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko. The Ukrainians set up a sting, gathered all the evidence about the Russian cut out who paid $40,000 to a hitman, and then staged an assassination — complete with yellow tape and reports of Babchenko’s wife crying over his bloody body.

The tributes poured into Babchenko and his fearlessness. Then two days later, he walked into a news conference in Kyiv to announce he was alive.

Back in Moscow, his co-workers cried tears of joy that he was alive, and had exposed another Russian plot. Here he says, “I’m sorry for what I put my wife and friends through… but it was necessary to save my life.”

Babchenko now lives safely in Israel. And in Moscow, scanning the radio dial, I did not hear any traffic and weather together on the vyo-shems.

Related: Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: What’s an Oligarch anyway?

Listen to Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News every weekday from 3 to 7 p.m. for more of his “My Minute of News.” And check out the podcast below.

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Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: A deadly career choice — journalists in Russia