One year ago, the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered. The fearless, crusading journalist for Russia’s leading opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, was just 48 years old when she was found in her Moscow apartment building, shot in the head.
Her unflinching investigative reporting on the brutality and corruption of the Chechen war, as well as other abuses of official power, had made her the target of numerous death threats. On one of her many reporting trips to Chechnya, she was detained and beaten by Russian troops who threw her into a pit, threatened to rape her and performed a mock execution. But, as one of her colleagues wrote soon after her murder, “Anna believed that fate had given her a mission: to tell people the truth about what was actually going on in Chechnya.” When she was killed, Politkovskaya was working on an article claiming Chechen civilians were being tortured by security forces loyal to the region’s pro-Moscow Consul and now President Ramzan Kadyrov.
In an editorial published immediately after Politkovskaya’s assassination, the paper’s staff pledged, “While there is a Novaya Gazeta, her killers won’t sleep soundly.” Four days after her death, the newspaper published her unfinished article, along with photos of the torture victims.
This September, Russia’s Prosecutor General announced that ten people had been arrested in Politkovskaya’s killing, including a police major, three former police officers and lieutenant colonel in the FSB, the former KGB Yet, for all practical purposes, one year later, her brazen murder remains unsolved. Despite what Russian officials have claimed as breakthroughs, Roman Shleinov, an investigative editor at Novaya Gazeta, says the truth is still buried. The paper’s courageous editor-in-chief, Dmitrii Muratov, who was initially satisfied with the progress of the official investigation–even cooperating with it– now believes that media leaks, the demotion of the lead investigator, the release of a key suspect, and claims of gaping holes in the evidence have undermined hopes of justice being served. And the paper’s editors dispute the official version of foreign involvement in Politkovskaya’s murder –that it was done in order to discredit the Kremlin and destabilize the Russian state. Novaya Gazeta continues to conduct an independent investigation of its martyred reporter’s murder.
However murky the official Russian investigation, what remains clear is that Anna Politkovskaya endures as an example of the importance of truth and courage in journalism. It is that importance –and her fearless pursuit of justice for the powerless and vulnerable –which will be remembered in memorials,from Moscow to London and New York, this weekend.