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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    An outrage in Russia

    This summer, in the Chechen village of Kurchaloi, a severed head was raised over the town square by Russian security forces. After this message of “”medieval barbarity”” was directed at the village inhabitants, the head was later sewn back onto the body, the body placed again at the site of the previous day’s ambush so Russian troops could evaluate the scene. There to report on the incident was one Anna Politkovskaya, a plainspoken Russian journalist and a pariah in her own land for her willingness to tell the stories the government didn’t want heard.

    Years before, Politkovskaya was detained and beaten by Russian troops, dragged into a ditch, threatened with rape and subjected to a mock execution. In 2001, Politkovskaya fled to Austria for a time to avoid a plausible death threat.

    Such was the life for the brave Russian journalist who sought an objective account of the Second Chechen War, a conflict that still simmers to this day. She was incensed by the “”with us or against us”” rhetoric emanating from Moscow. It precluded criticism of the military’s ways. It precluded freedom of speech.

    Politkovskaya made enemies in both Russia and Chechnya, but what was most striking was how fluid those distinctions were. A politician seeking her death one day would grant an interview the next. Troops tasked to make her work miserable would often secretly approach her to share their grievances. Most accounts were published, and always, Russian officials would summon the journalist to demand knowledge of her sources.

    On Oct. 7, Politkovskaya’s body was found in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building. She was shot once in the chest and once in the head, a 9mm Makarov pistol strewn at her side.

    The murder was a blatant contract killing – another such outrage in a long line of 42 contract-style killings of journalists in Russia since 1992. She joins Paul Klebnikov, the American-born editor of Forbes Russia who was murdered in July 2004. She joins Andrei Kozlov, the first deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Bank, who was murdered last month for his campaign to rid corruption from the Russian banking system.

    An investigation will ensue. The Russian Prosecutor General will make noises that the case is moving forward, moving in this direction, moving nowhere at all. No one will be arrested. No one found guilty.

    Politkovskaya’s murder occurred on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday. His condemnation of the atrocity came four days later – four days too late – after he was pressed by German journalists.

    The life of Politkovskaya illustrated that the modern Russia was not the Soviet Union, that a footloose and straight-shooting journalist could still operate, even under the threat of death.

    Her death embodies all that is wrong in today’s Russia – a quasi-anarchic police state that claims the fuzzy mantle of “”sovereign democracy.”” Her writing tried to illuminate this reality.

    Her death, at the age of 48, makes it all too clear. The world mourns the loss of this courageous journalist.

    Opinions Board

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Ari Lerner, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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