By Tomáš Vršovský
via Prague Watchdog
October 8, 2006
PRAGUE - I was with a British academician and human rights practitioner yesterday afternoon, discussing the price that human rights activists pay for their vocation when a friend of mine called to announce, "They killed Politkovskaya".
The contract murder of a top Russian investigative journalist, who covered the Chechnya conflict and developments in the Northern Caucasus, took place on President Putin’s 54th birthday. This is rather symbolic in that it was Putin who at the turn of the century launched, along with the war in Chechnya, a campaign against the free media.
Anna, however, was not afraid of him. Last month I happened to talk with her about the threats she faced in the past, asking whether they had stopped. "Not at all. I'm still being threatened. I've just stopped talking publicly about them." As to where did they come from, she said, "Chechnya," adding that they come from Ramzan Kadyrov and his people. "It’s best that I not think about them, otherwise I would go crazy."
In the past couple of years, Anna devoted her life to bring at least a bit of justice to the victims of murders, abductions, and torture - areas where the state not only fails to protect its citizens, but itself becomes the implementer of terror.
"Every day I receive three to five letters from Chechnya from people asking me for help. And I have to dispassionately select which are to be used in my reports and which must be ignored. It's terrible, but it's something I can't do anything about."
Sadly, Anna has paid the ultimate price for her job. This courageous woman, by telling the truth, induced fear in the powers-that-be. It’s a lesson that especially Russian journalists should take to heart.