Journalism continues to be a dangerous occupation in many places, not the least of them Russia. The latest case is 51-year-old Ivan Safronov, a reporter with the daily paper Kommersant who covered military space technology.

Safronov died on Friday after falling from a fifth-floor window in his apartment block. Prosecutors say they are considering the possibility of suicide, but his friends and colleagues have dismissed the idea.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Russia is the third-deadliest country in the world for journalists. Since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, there have been at least 14 suspicious deaths:

Igor Domnikov, July 2000: reporter for Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta, died from his injuries two months after being attacked with a hammer by an unidentified assailant in the entrance to his apartment building.

Sergey Novikov, July 2000: owner of Radio Vesna in Smolensk, shot and killed in the stairwell of his apartment building.

Iskandar Khatloni, September 2000: reporter for the Tajik-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Moscow, killed late at night in his apartment by an unknown, axe-wielding assailant.

Sergey Ivanov, October 2000: director of the largest independent television company in Togliatti, shot and killed by unknown gunmen in front of his apartment building.

Eduard Markevich, September 2001: editor and publisher of Novy Reft, the local newspaper in the town of Reftinsky, Sverdlovsk Region, shot in the back.

Natalya Skryl, March 2002: business reporter for Nashe Vremya in Rostov-on-Don, died from injuries after being attacked from behind and struck in the head with a heavy, blunt object.

Valery Ivanov, April 2002: editor of the independent newspaper Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye in Togliatti, shot dead from point-blank range outside his home.

Dmitry Shvets, April 2003: deputy director-general of independent television station TV-21 in Murmansk, shot dead outside the station’s offices.

Aleksei Sidorov, October 2003: Ivanov’s successor as editor of Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye, stabbed in the chest by two unidentified assailants near his apartment building in Togliatti.

Paul Klebnikov, July 2004: editor of Forbes Russia and an investigative reporter, gunned down at night as he left his Moscow office.

Magomedzagid Varisov, June 2005: writer for the weekly Novoye Delo in Dagestan, died from multiple bullet wounds after his car was attacked by machine-gun fire as he was returning home.

Vagif Kochetkov, January 2006: correspondent in Tula for the Moscow daily Trud, died from a serious head injury after being attacked by an assailant with a blunt object.

Ilya Zimin, February 2006: correspondent for the national television station NTV, found murdered in his Moscow apartment amid signs of a violent struggle.

Anna Politkovskaya, October 2006: renowned journalist for Novaya Gazeta, found shot dead in her apartment building in Moscow.

Add in the notorious case of dissident military officer Alexander Litvinenko, killed last year by radiation poisoning, and those who accuse the Russian government of trying to silence its critics certainly have plenty of ammunition.

So far there’s no real evidence that the government itself is responsible, but journalists are a suspicious lot and Putin will have his work cut out to allay their fears.

Peter Fray

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