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Demands for an Enquiry into the Murder of Anna Politkovskaya

Translated Thursday 26 October 2006, by Patrick Bolland

RUSSIA. Calls are multiplying abroad to demand that the murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a specialist on Chechnya, does not remain unpunished

The specter of Anna Politkovskaya will surely be present during the meeting hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel withi Vladimir Putin. Today, Merkel is hosting Vladimir Putin to celebrate the 800th centenary of the city of Dresden, and will certainly talk to her counterpart about the fate of the murdered Russian journalist. This will put additional pressure on the Russian administration, confronted with a concert of protests since Politkovskaya, known for her well-documented coverage of the situation in Chechnya and her opposition to Putin, was found murdered last Saturday.

Last Sunday, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke of a “horrible crime” while, the International Federation of journalists (IFJ) referred to “a shocking atrocity”. Besides the condemnations, most Western politicians and human rights groups have demanded that this murder be thoughly investigated, since none of the twelve murders of journalists since Putin came in power in 1999 have ever been resolved. In spite of all these protests, the Kremlin had, still yesterday afternoon, seen no reason to say anything about Anna Politkovskaya’s murder.

“The conditions of work of journalists in Russia have continued to deteriorate and violence against journalists is the worst problem facing press freedom.” Reporters Without Borders had already written in their last annual report. The National Union of Journalists (SNJ) of the French CGT trade union federation referred to “these methods which recall darker times for freedom”. Since Putin came to power in 1999, the Russian State has increasingly dominated the media, taking back control of the three television channels which provide the bulk of news to the Russian public.

Beyond the press, all human rights organizations are under increased pressure, particularly since the beginning in 1999 of the second Chechen war. The Kremlin then put every obstacle in the way of the press and the NGOs, by monopolizing news in order supposedly “to bring about negotiations”, as they had done during the first Chechen war. In her book, “A Small Corner of Hell, Dispatches from Chechnya”, published in 2003, Anna Politkovskaya stressed that “the whole of Russian society is bogged down in the second Chechen war”. She attacked the “chauvinistic spirit within the government apparatus, which, under the cover of patriotism, uses the unrestrained rhetoric of the power of the State, anti-Chechen racism, with metastases to other people in Russia …”. (1) Such a denunciation rings out more loudly than ever, at the time that those in power have launched their persectution of the Georgians.

Demonstration in honour of Anna Politkovskaya, Thursday 9 October. on the parvis in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

[Translator’s note]

(1) The extract from “A Small Corner of Hell, Dispatches from Chechnya” is a translation from the French: “Le déshonneur russe” (2003).

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