Sunday, October 15, 2006

Anna Politkovskaya

Before the news that she'd been openly assasinated as she stepped out of her Moscow apartment, I'd only ever read a couple of things by Anna Politkovskaya: some excerpts selected as part of John Pilger's compendium of investigative journalism, Tell Me No Lies.

But even in that collection of examples of improbable bravery, hardheadedness and persistence, her pieces - about what she called the "dirty war" in Chechnya - stood out.

Chechnya is not a popular or romantic war zone. There's no clear right or wrong, no obvious geopolitical narrative. Just mutual and meaningless brutality with ordinary people caught in the middle.

In this grim setting, Anna Politkovskaya saw her role as simply to document the experiences of innocent victims "for the future". Though she was particularly dogged in uncovering the atrocities of the Russian Army, her only real agenda was to insist on the intrinsic value of each human life. For that, she was killed.

Though even world leaders felt compelled to comment on her murder, it barely gained a mention in the New Zealand media. On a night when Dan Carter's modelling of Jockey singlets featured highly on the late evening news, there was nothing on the death of Politkovskaya.

That's a great pity. Because if her murder will likely have the effect of further cowing dissent in Russia, her life ought to be an inspiration. She carried on doing what was right (not "what she thought was right") despite ongoing threats to her life. Few people will achieve that level of extreme heroism. But everyone should be able to draw some courage from it.

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