CPJ Seeks Answers on Staged Death of Journalist Babchenko

The Committee to Protect Journalists still has a lot of questions about the staged murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, including why it was necessary.

The CPJ had joined others in mourning Babchenko's death and condemning his killers after it was reported Wednesday (May 30) that he had been killed in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Babchenko had immigrated to Kiev after saying he had received death threats over his reporting on and criticism of the Kremlin. CPJ had called on Ukrainian authorities to find all those responsible.

It turned out that Babchenko was actually alive and well, his death reportedly being staged by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to foil a real plot to kill him.

SBU has said that plot was orchestrated by Russian intelligence and was part of a larger "conspiracy" to murder Russian dissidents who had fled to Ukraine.

Babchenko has been working in Kiev as a TV anchor on Crimean Tatar Channel ATR, according to news reports cited by CPJ.

"We are relieved that Arkady Babchenko is alive," said Nina Ognianova, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. "Ukrainian authorities must now disclose what necessitated the extreme measure of staging news of the Russian journalist's murder. CPJ is investigating this unprecedented situation and will have further comment once we have more details."

In a blog post Thursday (May 31), Ognianova said the group still had not come to a conclusion about the staged killing and its impact on press freedom because it still needed answers to the following questions, answers that would determine that potential impact:

  • "How imminent and credible was the alleged threat to Babchenko's life?
  • "What evidence does the SBU have that the Russian security service orchestrated the alleged assassination plot?
  • "What evidence does Ukraine have against the alleged organizer and alleged contract killer?
  • "Who is the alleged mastermind of the plot?
  • "What is the identity of the alleged organizer in custody?
  • "What is the identity of the alleged contract killer? Where is he?
  • "Why did the SBU need to go to the extreme measure of announcing Babchenko's murder in order to stop the alleged plot and arrest the alleged organizer?
  • "Who in the Ukrainian government was aware of the operation?
  • "Why did authorities publicly blame the Russian security services for the alleged assassination plot prior to completing an investigation and charging the suspected plotters?
  • "How much did Babchenko know of the alleged threat on his life, and to what evidence was he privy?
  • "How much did Babchenko's wife know, and when?"
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.