Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has ranked Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the president of the Russian North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, among the world's worst "predators" of freedom.
The international organization marked World Press Freedom Day by issuing on Monday a list of this year's 40 worst Predators of Press Freedom.
"As well as manipulating groups and institutions, Putin has promoted a climate of pumped-up national pride that encourages the persecution of dissidents and freethinkers and fosters a level of impunity that is steadily undermining the rule of law," the organization said.
RSF said Putin, "the former KGB officer," has exerted so much control over all aspects of life in Russia that "the national TV stations now speak with a single voice."
The organization said conditions for journalists were particularly difficult in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region. It cited Kadyrov as saying that "the press must be in the service of the Chechen people's unity," and said "in practice, journalists interpret this as meaning they must praise his every action and the people's devotion to him."
It said reporters and rights activists in Russia are "exposed to considerable danger, especially in the North Caucasus... Five journalists were murdered in 2009. Twenty-two have been murdered since 2000."
Putin and Kadyrov were listed alongside Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, China's Hu Jintao, Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko and North Korea's Kim Jong-il.
MOSCOW, May 4 (RIA Novosti)