“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.



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
    Rose Jay via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Labrador Retriever

    These guys are happy because their little brains literally can't grasp the concept of global warming.

    Hysteria via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    German Shepherd

    This momma is happy to bring her little guy into the world, because she doesn't know that one day they'll both be dead.

    Christian Mueller via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Golden Retriever

    I bet these guys wouldn't be having so much fun if they knew the sun was going to explode one day.

    WilleeCole Photography via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Bulldog

    This dude thinks he's tough, but only because nobody ever told him about ISIS.

    Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Beagle

    This little lady is dreaming about her next meal-- not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Labrador Photo Video via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Yorkshire Terrier

    This trusting yorkie has never even heard the name "Bernie Madoff."

    Pavla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Poodle

    She is smiling so widely because she is too stupid to understand what the Holocaust was.

    Aneta Pics via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Boxer

    Sure, frolic now, man. One day you're going to be euthanized and so is everyone you love.

    Dezi via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    French Bulldog

    He's on a casual afternoon stroll because he is unfamiliar with the concept of eternity.

    Jagodka via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Rottweiler

    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be this care-free? But we can't because we are basically all indirectly responsible for slavery.

  • 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>