Anna PolitkovskayaRussian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed two years ago this month, and today the trial of the three men accused of her murder begins in a Moscow military court. I was fortunate enough to interview this fearless, understated woman for Press Gazette a couple of years before she died (you can read it here). She recounted "stories so horrific that one’s hand refused to jot them down” of the appalling treatment that she witnessed of civilians in Chechnya by the Russian military - treatment of which she had first hand experience.

In fact she refused to talk in great detail about her own "obscene" ordeal at the hands of soldiers in the town of Khottuni because she was still struggling to live with the demons. She was told then that she would be shot - and was taken out into a field in the middle of the night for that apparent purpose - but was reprieved because a group of local people had seen her being taken away and had created enough publicity to unnerve the soldiers involved.

It was a reprieve that was all too short. For despite the fact that she had amassed powerful enemies with her reporting, Politkovskaya continued to be one of the very few journalists to shine a light into the darker corners of Chechen conflict. She continued to put herself very much in harm's way. Today's New Statesman pays tribute to Politkovskaya as the trial begins. The fact that it takes place in a military court isn't encouraging for the prospect of real justice. Nonetheless it at least means we have another opportunity to remember someone who refused to walk away from what she saw in a clear-eyed way as her job.

"That's our conscious choice," she said. "We're not children. Each person understands the level of the risks they are taking both in their career and their personal life."

Comments

I've just started reading January's entries in her Russian Diary - an excellent book (thanks for the recommendation Richard!).  One of those reads that is so natural, clear, precise and compelling.  This interview gives a glimpse of what is to come further into the read and I feel like I'm almost going to burst if I don't read on.  'Putin's Russia' sits on the pile of books beside my bed, next in line waiting to be read and I can't wait to delve into it.  Ian, if I hadn't already started reading 'A Russian Diary' this interview would have encouraged me to hunt it down.  What a brave woman she was, some would say fool hardy, but a tale that had to be told and she unfortunately paid the ultimate price for telling it. Let's hope on this anniversary that the court finds those who were really guilty for the murder, as you say, of this fearless and understated woman.

I agree with Lindsay, a fascinating if not tragic and shocking story, thanks for the link to the interview Ian. Such selfless persistence and courage in life threatening situations for the slight possibilty of increasing peace, safety and stability in a war-ridden community such as Chechnya is truly admirable, yet yes could be viewed as insanity. However let's be grateful that this is not an opinion shared by all, as it is an aspect of journalism that i find greatly inspirational. If you have not read the interview i thoroughly recommend it!!

We talked in conference yesterday about this piece, revealing the apparent poisoning in Strasbourg of human rights lawyer Karrina Moskalenko. She was due to attend the trial in Moscow of Anna's alleged killers.

Perhaps it is only a co-incidence that one of Moskalenko's clients, connected to the Yukos case, was also poisoned by mercury a couple of years ago. Perhaps.

As we discussed in conference yesterday, Anna Politkovsksaya is only one of
up to 47 journalists killed in Russia since the early 90s.

Russia is a dangerous place to be a journalist if you work on stories that examine the illegal activities of powerful people.

The killing of Anna Politkovskaya