New York City, July 15, 2009—PEN American Center today expressed outrage over the murder of journalist and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, who was found dead today in the Russian republic of Ingushetia. Estemirova was reportedly abducted earlier this morning as she left her home in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.

Natalia Estemirova worked for Memorial, Russia’s leading human rights organization, where she earned international acclaim for her efforts to document and report human rights abuses in Chechnya. She was close friends and frequently collaborated with journalist and author Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in Moscow in 2006. Together they exposed widespread abuses including kidnappings, torture, and extra-judicial killings by Russian military and security forces in the region.

Speaking at a December 6, 2006 PEN event honoring Anna Politkovsaya in New York, Natalia Estemirova said, “It is extremely clear to me that those who killed her thought they were silencing her.” That same can be said of Natalia Estemirova’s murder this morning. Human Rights Watch reports she was investigating “extremely sensitive” cases and she reportedly was on her way to a full day of meetings at the time of her abduction. Initial reports indicate she had been shot twice in the head.

“PEN American Center is shocked by Natalia Estemirova’s brutal murder, the latest in a long line of assassinations of courageous, truth-seeking journalists and human rights defenders in Russia,” said Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. “We remember her and honor her incredible work, and we call on the government of Russia to carry out a full investigation and bring her killers to justice.”

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105