#22 - JRL 7015
Ingush press service blasts Wall Street Journal article on Chechen refugees
Source: Respublika Ingushetia web site, Magas, in Russian 12 Jan 03
"There has so far been no factual evidence of the forcible return of migrants to Chechnya," Ella Pamfilova, chairwoman of the Russian president's human rights commission, said on 27 December 2002, commenting on the results of an inspection of Chechen refugee camps in Ingushetia. However, despite this statement and statements by other rights activists who also confirm that there have been no cases of forcible return of refugees, there are journalists who state the contrary.
For instance, on 8 January the inopressa.ru web site carried a transcription of a Wall Street Journal article by Cynthia Scharf entitled "Putin's other Chechen campaign".
Starting with "in perpetuating the mixture of denials and lies ..., Mr Putin is leading his country up a blind alley", the author finishes her material with the return of Chechen refugees to their homeland. She writes that "the Russian president has ... forcibly evicted Chechen families from refugee camps in Ingushetia". It must be noted that this statement is not backed by any facts. The article goes on to say that representatives of the so-called fourth estate are denied entry to Chechen refugee camps without special escorts, Ingushetia has been turned into "walled-off ghettos, sealed from the eyes and ears of all", and that therefore they do not have the true picture of the state of refugees.
This is an obvious lie: over 100 journalists have visited tent camps in Ingushetia over the past two months alone, and no-one controlled their movements, as the author states. On the contrary, many foreign correspondents appealed to the Ingush presidential press service to provide assistance in visiting refugee camps.
You can read how comfortable it is in a letter of thanks to the Ingush presidential press service from the president of the association of foreign correspondents, (?Adib Al Saeed): "...on behalf of correspondents accredited in Russia, I would like to thank you for the cordial welcome shown to a group from the association of foreign correspondents who visited Ingushetia recently", he writes.
It must be noted that the group of 20 journalists from America and Western Europe was accompanied only by one employee of the presidential press service at the request of the journalists themselves.
We could comment on the article point by point, but it seems difficult to convince a person who lives according to the "don't see or hear anything good" guidelines that you cannot tell only lies, you also have to note positive changes in Chechnya itself, because of which refugees have started returning to their homes voluntarily. It suffices to open several central newspapers, for instance Shchit i mech [Shield and sword] of 9 January 2003, or an information web site, and learn about the return of refugees. Scharf might not believe her colleagues, but this is her own business. The main thing is that Scharf and her colleagues should not level accusations against anyone without foundation.
The press service of the Ingush president