“Is Journalism Worth Dying For?”: One woman’s story

A collection of essays by Russia's murdered Anna Politkovskaya asks the question: Is journalism worth dying for?

Topics: Nonfiction, Books,

"Is Journalism Worth Dying For?": One woman's story

For Anna Politkovskaya, Russia was a grim country — a “managed democracy” governed by brutal leaders and craven bureaucrats, policed by violent and extortionist security services, and reported on only by “servants of the Presidential Administration.” Her crusading, obsessive journalism made her many enemies, not least inside the Kremlin; she endured beatings, poisoning, and a mock execution; but she did not back down. Murdered in 2006, her killers never found, Politkovskaya lives on in “Is Journalism Worth Dying For?,” a collection of her “final dispatches.”

Barnes & Noble ReviewPolitkovskaya’s greatest and most dangerous work was done in Chechnya, the functionally lawless region that foreign and even Russian journalists refused to enter, but to which she returned more than two dozen times. It is a terrifying place, where anarchic paramilitaries roam the streets with Berettas, politicians hit up citizens for cash, and opponents of the regime are abducted and thrown into jail cells dug into the ground, if they’re not killed with impunity. And there is characteristically fearless reporting on the 2002 siege of a Moscow theater by Chechen terrorists, during which Politkovskaya attempted to negotiate with the militants to release hundreds of hostages before Russian authorities gassed the theater, killing at least 130 people. Politkovskaya argues that federal security services abetted the terrorists, a claim backed up with evidence from the former spy Alexander Litvinenko — who was himself murdered a few months after Politkovskaya, poisoned with polonium at a London sushi joint.

You Might Also Like

Not all of Politkovskaya’s dispatches make such forbidding reading; there are easier reports from Paris and Sydney, and even a long and surprisingly tender essay on her dog. But her enduring importance derives from her refusal to capitulate despite seemingly unbearable pressure — and, even more basically, her commitment to rigorous on-the-ground reporting when journalists, even when not faced with official intimidation, spend more time with P.R. flacks than sources and victims. Upon her death, Lech Walesa mourned her as “a sentinel for truth,” and Condoleezza Rice called her “a heroine of mine”; for the New York Times, she stood as “a symbol of what Russia has become.” Only Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-installed gangster president of Chechnya and a key suspect in her murder, was unmoved. “I was not bothered in the slightest by what she wrote,” he insisted, “and I have never lowered myself to trying to settle scores with women.”

Jason Farago is a regular contributor to the Guardian and writes criticism for the London Review of Books, n+1, Frieze and other publications. He is also editor of Art in Common, a blog on art and urban life.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>