Less than 36 hours after Bob Schieffer made the above remarks, in Russia, a 48 year old celebrated investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who had been working copiously to expose the travesties of her government, under Vladimir Putin, was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow. Ms. Politkovskaya had received nearly a dozen awards from human rights, and international journalist groups such as Reporters without Borders, over the years, for her exemplary work exposing, and documenting, the slaughter, torture, and harassment of civilians by Russian soldiers in Chechnya. "People sometimes pay with their lives for saying out loud what they think," Ms. Politkovskyaya has been quoted as saying. (AP) Clearly, too, they pay the ultimate price for writing what they think as a book that she recently wrote which takes issue with Putin's campaign against "terror" in Chechnya, and reveals "widespread abuse of civilians by government troops" (AP) surely didn't win her any fans among Moscow's military elite.
Anna P. was one of the few allowed into a theatre in Moscow held hostage by Chechen rebels, back in 2002, where she tried to negotiate with the militants. The fact that many of those who were in the theatre, at the time, later succumbed to gas poisoning served as the focus of much of her most recent investigative work, as well as her ongoing inquiry into the Putin regime's campaign of torture against Chechen "terrorists."
Nearly two dozen journalists have been killed in Russia over the past 8 years, many in Chechnya, making Russia among the most dangerous countries for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. (AP) Clearly, the syllabus for Journalism 101 doesn't include serving in a war, an undeclared war, no less, against the free flow of information, and a free press.
Human Rights Watch, in a report more than two years ago, notes that of the seven Russian detainees, at Guantanamo Bay, who were released by the U.S. government, six urged the U.S. not to release them saying they were afraid they'd be "tortured, or mistreated" when they got back home. "They were right," asserts HRW, "All seven have been variously harassed, detained, mistreated, and beaten since they set foot on Russian soil. Two have been convicted of terrorism after highly irregular trials. One was tortured in pre-trial detention. Three are in hiding after campaigns of intimidation and harassment by Russian law enforcement authorities." So, given how the Russian government harasses its citizens, it should come as no surprise then how it treats one who exposes its campaign of beating, and intimidation of its civillians.
So, while Russian prosecutors open an investigation into who, or what, killed this prominent reporter, and while they concede that "the killing could be linked to her work," (AP) it is up to those of us who care about getting the truth out to continue Anna Politkovskaya's mission to uncover those crimes that come within the parameters of normal governmental practice. We, in this country, can best do justice to her memory, as well as the memory of all those who keep us informed in these dark times, by acknowledging universally that torture must not be allowed to breed under the badge of terror, and demanding that crimes against journalists be seen, and punished, as crimes against humanity.
Anna Politkovskaya was a foot soldier in the campaign for truth, a free press, and a multidimensional view of the world, as was Daniel Pearl, and others who will have received no accolades, and who won't be remembered except perhaps as a footnote in a history book yet to be written, thus it is up to each and every one of us to celebrate members of the press, one and all.