IN OTHER WORDS: Ruler’s law

If there were no precedents for the suspicious death of Russian journalist Ivan Safronov, it might be easier to believe his fall from a fifth-floor window on March 2 was a suicide

that the officials initially said it was. But too many other journalists working on sensitive stories have met violent ends in Russia.

Safronov, military correspondent for the daily Kommersant, had told colleagues he was about to file a story on Russian sales of advanced missiles and fighter jets to Syria and Iran, transactions that were to be routed through Belarus to give the Kremlin deniability.

The story Safronov was pursuing illustrates why a free press is indispensable to a free society, and why authoritarian regimes cannot tolerate freedom of press. Kremlin authorities would not want the truth known about their arms sales to Syria and Iran because of the reaction abroad and because it would reveal yet one more example of how the KGB veterans in Putin’s ruling clique are using political power to enrich themselves.

The result of that hostility to probing journalists was evident in a report last week from the Brussels-based International News Safety Institute. It found that during the last decade, only Iraq was more dangerous for journalists than Russia. There is no surer sign that the ruler’s law has replaced the rule of law.