10 Years After Russian Journalist’s Murder, Reporters Everywhere Under Threat

Russian’s 2006 Murder Reminds us of Dangers Faced by All Journalists.

Anna Politkovskaya, Demonstration
Protesters with photos of Anna Politkovskaya in Lahti, Finland, 2006. Photo credit: Antti Jauhiainen / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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“Journalism, as concerns collecting information, differs little if at all from intelligence work,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ex KGB officer, is quoted as saying. “In my judgment, a journalist’s job is very interesting.”

In his country, the job is certainly more interesting than elsewhere, as Anna Politkovskaya could attest …if she were alive.

After having survived several brushes with death, the Russian journalist was gunned down in the elevator of her apartment building 10 years ago today. Politkovskaya, who was a frequent critic and thorn in the side of Putin, was known for her reporting on the illegal behavior of Russian troops in Chechnya.

After her death, Putin acknowledged that Politkovskaya was a “sharp critic” of the Kremlin but dismissed her influence in Russia as “insignificant.” He added that she had been well known in human rights circles but that her murder was more damaging to Russia and Chechnya than her investigative reporting had been.

Still, shortly after her assassination, former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko blamed Putin for the death of the reporter. At the time, Litvinenko himself was on his deathbed after having been poisoned with the radioactive element polonium. Though Putin was not tied directly to Politkovskaya’s murder in two subsequent trials, the fact remains that Russia has been a very dangerous place for reporters during his reign.  [Ultimately, five were convicted of the murder, but not of planning it. A spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee said that “exhaustive measures are currently being taken to establishing the person who ordered the murder of Anna Politkovskaya.”]

Alexander Litvinenko's grave. Photo credit: Cory Doctorow / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Alexander Litvinenko’s grave. Photo credit: Cory Doctorow / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

At least 23 journalists have been murdered in the country since he became president, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That makes Russia one of the most dangerous countries in the world for reporters.

Killing journalists, however, does more than silencing one person. These murders affect all reporters by creating an atmosphere of fear. (Contributing to this atmosphere are incidents like the mysterious death in the US of investigative journalist Michael Hastings, even though his death may have been accidental.)

Not surprisingly, Russia ranks in the bottom 10% of countries with regard to freedom of the press, according to Freedom House. The US is among the top 30 on that list. That ranking, however, could soon take a dive.

Hillary Clinton, for example, has dodged the national press for much of the presidential campaign and instead relied on “friendly” media appearances. If elected, she could continue President Barack Obama’s policy of trying to limit access to government officials that has been criticized by the media as well as groups like Freedom House.

The real threat to a free press, however, seems to come from Donald Trump, who has gone out of his way to express his admiration for Putin as a strong leader. He calls the press “liars” and, as an intimidation tactic, points out reporters during his rallies while egging on his supporters to boo them. Furthermore, Trump has banned certain reporters and outlets from his events, which has led the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) to condemn him.

“Any nominee for the highest office in the country must respect the role of a free and adversarial press, not disown the principles of the First Amendment just because he or she does not like the tone or content of their coverage,” the WHCA said in response to the bans of The Washington Post, Politico and other outlets.

Most troubling, however, is Trump’s platform as president.

Earlier this year, the Republican nominee said he would want to “open up our libel laws” so he could sue outlets who write “horrible and false articles” about him. However, no story written about Trump has been proven to be false or, most importantly for libel, to have been published with malicious intent and in the full awareness that the information presented was incorrect.

It appears, however, that the nuances of the First Amendment and libel laws are lost on Trump, who tweeted in August: “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!”

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adopted by WhoWhatWhy from Anna Politkovskaya (Vladimir Varfolomeev / Flickr -CC BY-NC 2.0)

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11 responses to “10 Years After Russian Journalist’s Murder, Reporters Everywhere Under Threat”

  1. Jeff Clyburn says:

    He seems to have gone silent. Curious how often that happens.

  2. KevinChamberlin says:

    Most of what the MSM in US reports are lies. The presstitutes in the media report what the US government tells them. Look at the war propaganda against Russia, on Ukraine and Syria. Many murders have been committed by the US government agents in recent years to cover up the truth. The list goes on and on. This is all very clear.

    • Eric John says:

      Also, do you have anything resembling proof or evidence of US committing these murders? Or are you just repeating what you read on a pro-Putin conspiracy site??

      Oh, and while you’re at it, please do explain why the US would want to kill the very group that is fighting for pro-Western liberal values.

      (This ought to be interesting…)

    • Eric John says:

      So are you saying that Politico, Daily Beast, Vox, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Week, etc, are all shills, working for the government to spread pro-US propaganda?

  3. James says:

    Paolo Guzzanti’s witness statement to the Litvinenko inquiry was interesting.

  4. kolokol says:

    No coroner has even ruled Litvinenko’s death a murder.

    • Geoff says:

      This is disingenuous. The judge who initially acted as coroner in the inquest, subsequently headed the official inquiry, which has stated unambiguously that Litvinenko’s death was murder.

    • and says:

      Nonsense reply .
      you defeated yourself .
      “Acted as coroner ” .

  5. and says:

    Cmon , as much as Trump criticize’s the mainstream media , the mainstream media reports and distorts all of the information about and from Trump . It’s laughable the shameless behavior from many of these so-called reporters and outlets who count on the stupidity and lack of critical thinking of the general public .

    ‘Mexicans are rapists’ – if there is a better example of mass manipulation and CIA programming available , forgive me , I’ve been astounded that this so easily debunkable sound bite is still sold as truth and fact .
    Not to offend WWWhy , but cmon , if you lump your selves into the mainstream standard of journalism , you demote yourself and make it easy to question your integrity .

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      If you don’t see what’s profoundly disgusting about a quote like:

      “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

      Then you’re absolutely part of the problem.

    • and says:

      So , lemme go neck deep into my part of the problem.
      Just to own my share of course.
      They are bringing drugs , witnessed it personally myself.
      They are bringing crime , witnessed this numerous times personally .
      80% of female migrants captured by border services seek rape counseling and support while waiting for transit home , citing the sexual predators interacted with before crossing illegally into America.
      Yup , I’m a part of the problem because these facts bother me , make me concerned for the folks risking everything to find a small dose of freedom, and seriously wonder how semi intelligent folks could be so indoctrinated into believing FEELINGS are more important than facts.

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      So your source is … you? And you witnessed most all of them? Please link to your “80%” figure. …

    • and says:

      Google my willfully ignorant troll .

    • Jeff Clyburn says:

      It’s trolling to ask for your source? No wonder you’re a Trump apologist. Yeah, so I guess you won’t be providing that link. Likely because it doesn’t actually exist. … In any event, good job sugar-coating for overt racism. Does wonders for the net morality level of our site. Thanks so much!

    • Eric John says:

      So just because WWW acknowledges the indisputable pattern of journalists (and political dissidents) being executed in Russia – that also happens to also be reported in the MSM, suddenly they’re not alternative enough for you?

      What about climate change? If WWW also ascribes to climate change, as does the MSM, then does that make them too conventional for you, too?

    • and says:

      Hahhahah climate change , hahhahahahah.
      Global warming hahahahahahahahhaha
      Its an electric universe and winters coming yo .
      Suspicious0bservers/ youtube . How to watch the sun .