Who Killed Paul Klebnikov?

It’s been a little over a year — July 9, 2004 to be exact — since American journalist Paul Klebnikov, the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was murdered, riddled with 10 bullets as he exited his Moscow office building.

The case is still unresolved, and has received little attention in this country, but a determined group of reporters are trying to change all that by doing what they do best: Launching an investigation. Calling it “Project K”, the group, which first started coming together in October 2004 at a memorial service for Klebnikov in Manhattan, now includes not only the guy who got the ball rolling, journalist Richard Behar, but investigative reporter Will Bourne, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, and volunteers from Bloomberg, The Economist, Forbes, Vanity Fair, the BBC, Newsday and “60 Minutes.” Pro bono partnerships have been struck for legal counsel, PR and university internships, according to the group’s Web site.

In a press release, Behar explained that “In the case of Project K, members are encouraged to publish or broadcast stories at any time, and they follow the dictates, policies and practices of their news outlets. What we will provide is back-up reporting and support, a database of information and sources, and assistance in the structuring of joint ventures and cost-sharing (when feasible).”

As part of the project, MediaChannel.org is running a three-part series on the effort this week. The first piece, giving the group’s background, ran today.

As Behar wrote in the inaugural article, Klebnikov “was one of the few journalists on the cutting edge of the nexus between Russian politics, big business and global organized crime. Unfortunately, for a society hooked on an endless stream of Laci’s and Jacko’s … the first American reporter killed in Russia was a story without a Nielsen audience.” He continues that Project K’s mission is to “[shed] light on the murder and some of the complex stories that Klebnikov was trying to untangle when he was silenced.”

A worthy project indeed, and one with two purposes: First, to finally uncover who killed an innocent, talented reporter who was working on stories that exposed corruption, incompetence and lawlessness, and second, to continue the work that Klebinkov tirelessly pursued, pulling back the curtain on the world of the oligarchs and corrupt officials who control much of the Russian economy.

Paul McLeary

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.