As a journalist, Anna Politkovskaya’s fearless coverage of the conflict and human rights situation in Chechnya earned her international recognition. It also brought harassment and intimidation from authorities. She was detained, threatened and poisoned because of her work. In October 2006, she was shot dead at her home in Moscow.
“The people on trial are connected to the murder, but it’s not clear how connected they are, or what their role is,” one source said. “It’s a very difficult, complicated case.” Staff at the paper were “pessimistic” that the mastermind would be caught, he said, adding that the defendants could be acquitted on appeal.
“The idea is to show that the guilty have been punished. In reality those behind the murder haven’t been apprehended,” says Natalia Estemirova, from the human rights organisation Memorial in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital. “The trial has been a farce. There has been no serious attempt to properly investigate.” …
“It is generally accepted that we Russians do not like ourselves much.” So wrote the late Politkovskaya (1958–2006) (Putin’s Russia, 2006, etc.), who paid with her life for her daring critiques of post-Soviet society.
This spirited collection, originally published by the journal Novaya Gazeta in 2007, opens with a self-interview taken from the journalist’s laptop after her death. In it, she accuses most of her journalistic colleagues in Russia with being koverny, or clowns, “whose job it is to keep the public entertained and, if they do have to write about anything serious, then merely to tell everyone how wonderful the Pyramid of Power is in all its manifestations.” The big-shoe phenomenon spreads far beyond Russia, of course, and Politkovskaya is not alone when she asks what the fate of those who refuse to play in the Big Top is—“They become pariahs,” she answers, though in her case it was worse still. Much of the collection concerns Russia’s war in Chechnya, which has quieted down since, but, only a few years ago, was raging—no thanks to orchestrated atrocities on the part of the Russian Army that Politkovskaya covered and uncovered. One was the so-called Shatoy Tragedy, in which Russian soldiers under the command of the Central Intelligence Directorate killed six Chechen civilians and burned their bodies.
It is the time for journalists to seriously consider if fighting for human rights is worth one’s life. Included in this are bloggers like myself who range from amateur to professional journalists. Based on my belief that I have the right and duty as an American citizen to monitor and complain about my government, I have not been shy about speaking my mind. My posts over the years have been skeptical and critical of my government, and at times paranoid. I have done, I estimate, more than my fair share of my civic duty for my couch surfing now Facebooking American country-folk.
Do I now retire from defending human rights? Would I really die to save others, people I don’t know, from abuses such as torture and false imprisonment if it put people I do know and love in danger? If it was just myself, my own life on the line, that’s a different question, but there are no guarantees. The world is changing. It is a time for soul-searching.
And you, readers of this blog, I don’t know the vast majority of you. Perhaps the weird crime news, funny animals and biology/technology stories are enough to keep this site interesting without using the soapbox to defend democracy and the US Constitution. When I hear a lie, why not, like everyone else, just complain to a few close friends and let it go at that? What drives me to publish and help the more easily fooled see possible deceptions? A sense of duty, compassion and fear of rising tyranny, I suppose. I could blame my 7th grade Civics teacher who said the country will fail if we don’t each do our part. If not me, who? Thus I have researched and written.
But how far will I take it?
I’m not saying this influences my decision, but I do have a question for you:
If this blog had no political/conspiracy information, would you be more or less likely to read it?