PEN Statement on the Murder of Anna Politkovskaya in Russia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY, October 7, 2006—PEN is appalled by the news of the murder today, October 7, 2006, of renowned Russian journalist and author Anna Politkovskaya, who was found shot dead in an elevator in her apartment building in Moscow.
A journalist who covered the war in Chechnya, Politkovskaya had been receiving threats since 1999, when she wrote articles claiming that the Russian armed forces had committed human rights abuses in Chechnya. Despite these threats she continued to write and in 2003 published A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya. She is also a co-contributor to A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya published in 2003. Her most recent book, Putin’s War: Life in A Failing Democracy is to be published in paperback in December of this year.
In 2002 Politkovskaya was one of the few outsiders allowed into the Moscow theater to attempt to negotiate with Chechen rebels for the release of hundreds of hostages. In 2004, she fell seriously ill as she attempted to fly to Beslan to cover the hostage crisis there, leading to speculation that she had been deliberately poisoned to stop her from reporting on the crisis.
“Anna Politkovskaya is a courageous writer known for her criticism not only of the Chechen war but also of the totalitarian backlash characterizing the latest developments in Russia. Her death raises serious concerns and confirms all the fears,” said Jiri Grusa, President of International PEN. “We protest in the strongest terms the situation in Russia that has allowed this to occur.”
A murder investigation is now under way. Vitaly Yaroshevsky, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper for which Politkovskaya worked, is certain that her murder is linked to her work, a view shared by Russian human rights observers. The Moscow deputy prosecutor has also told the press that the possible link between her death and her journalism will be investigated.
In addition to the physical threats she faced, Politkovskaya also was called to court several times for her reporting. A court hearing forced her to cancel an appearance at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature in New York earlier this year. World Voices Festival Director Salman Rushdie today offered PEN’s condolences to her family and her colleagues in Russia, and stressed PEN’s determination to see that her voice continues to be heard. “Like all great investigative reporters, Anna Politkovskaya brought forward human truths that rewrote the official story. We will continue to read her, and learn from her, for years.”
Politkovskaya was the winner of numerous international awards for her courage, including the 2004 Olaf Palme Award, a prize established by the family of the murdered Swedish prime minister. The award was given to Politkovskaya to honor her work for the “long battle for human rights in Russia.”
“Anna Politkovskaya’s integrity and courage inspired writers around the world as she reported on the most difficult situations in Russia,” said Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, International Secretary of International PEN. “She was an outspoken advocate for human rights in PEN forums and other forums around the globe. International PEN mourns her loss and calls for a relentless investigation to bring to justice those who are responsible for her murder.”
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Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105