LIMASSOL, Cyprus -- In July 2000, I joined Russian reporter Grigory Pasko and two carloads of fellow journalists in a visit to Irina Grebneva, a newspaper editor who had been jailed for five days in the Pacific port of Vladivostok, Russia. Her crime was making the governor look stupid and corrupt by printing a foul-mouthed rant in which he promised to help an ally steal the mayoral election.

It was a suitable day for such a visit. A typhoon was blowing in from the Sea of Japan. Ulyss Bay, with its fleet of rusting destroyers and half-sunken submarines, had vanished in the downpour. A torrent of mud and gravel washed down the unpaved road from the jail. Stout water pipes snaked between the apartment blocks and hopped the roads in squarish arches.

In Russia's far eastern Primorye region -- a place where armed police had shut down radio stations and reporters had been kidnapped and tortured -- it took guts for Pasko to show up. After all, he himself had been released from jail just days before.