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Anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya killing marked with new call to end impunity

In remembrance: People hold portraits of Anna Politkovskaya during a rally to mark the first anniversary of the Russian journalist's slaying, Moscow, Sunday, October 7, 2007. Politkovskaya's death resonated worldwide, casting a harsh light on the state of civil society and the safety of journalists and government critics under President Vladimir Putin. Photo: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Press freedom and human rights organisations have renewed calls for a thorough investigation into the murder of crusading Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and an end to impunity.

October 7 marked the first anniversary of the brutal murder of Politkovskaya, a renowned Kremlin critic who exposed human rights abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya. Politkovskaya, who worked with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was shot at the entrance to her residence in Moscow last year. Ten people, including police and government officials, were arrested in August in connection with the killing, but two have been released. The investigation has not established who planned the murder.

The Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), which had issued thousands of posters and stickers of Politkovskaya on October 7, reported that in St Petersburg several protesters were arrested for "damaging public property" by putting up stickers on public buildings.

Twenty-metre-high banners of Politkovskaya prepared for the day were not displayed in Russian cities as was hoped, CJES director Oleg Panfilov said, as "people were too afraid." Several banners were sent to Paris, London, Helsinki and New York for vigils there.

Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) staged a ceremony in Paris to mark the first anniversary of Politkovskaya’s murder, displaying photos of President Vladimir Putin and Politkovskaya alongside 18 coffins representing the 18 journalists killed in connection with their work in Russia since Putin became president in March 2000. Putin’s photo was embellished with the insignia of his French Legion of Honour award.

A supporter of the dissident "Other Russia" movement stands by a poster depicting journalist Anna Politkovskaya in central Moscow during a rally to commemorate her on the anniversary of her death October 7, 2007. Police clamped tight security on central Moscow on Sunday ahead of protests remembering murdered Politkovskaya and a Kremlin birthday party for President Vladimir Putin whose policies she criticised. The poster reads 'Anna! Death is the Price for the Truth' (Reuters/Alexander Natruskin)

“We urge the Russian authorities not to identify convenient suspects in this case,” RSF said in a statement. “The investigation took a disturbing turn a few weeks ago and we hope that a trial will open as soon as possible. Combatting impunity for the murderers of journalists in Russia continues to be a priority.” It added: “We do not forget Anna or the 17 other journalists killed in the past seven years, and we will do everything we can to ensure that justice is done.”

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Executive Director Joel Simon in a letter to the Russian president wrote, "As an independent, nonpartisan advocacy group that defends journalists’ rights to report the news without fear of reprisal, we urge you to ensure that law enforcement officials pursue a thorough, transparent, and unbiased investigation into Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. A successful prosecution would demonstrate your government’s commitment to reversing Russia’s record of impunity in journalist murders and to protecting Russia’s press corps — a pledge you made during your annual news conference at the Kremlin on February 1."

“Journalists around the world will spend this weekend reflecting on Anna’s shocking death which has come to symbolise the hundreds of journalists who are targeted and killed each year for their work,” said Aidan White, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) General Secretary. “Too often the killings go uninvestigated and unpunished. On the rare occasions when the people who carried out the murders are found guilty those who gave the orders have remained beyond the law.”

Politkovskaya's former colleagues at the 'Novaya Gazeta' visit her grave to mark the first anniversary of the Russian journalist's slaying, in Moscow, October 7, 2007. Politkovskaya's death — in an execution-style slaying in the entryway of her Moscow apartment building — resonated worldwide, casting a harsh light on the state of civil society and the safety of journalists and government critics under President Putin. (AP)

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) also wrote to Putin, "We are seriously concerned that those who order or carry out violence against journalists in Russia enjoy almost total impunity from prosecution. It is estimated that 21 journalists have been killed since you came to power in March 2000."

Russia, according to IFJ, has one of the highest death rates among journalists of any country in the world with 289 recorded deaths since 1993. In the past year seven other Russian journalists have died including Anatoly Voronin, Ilya Lukash, Vadim Kuznetsov, Konstantin Borovko, Ivan Goryaev-Sandji, Ivan Safronov and Leonid Etkind.

Date posted: October 14, 2007 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 2668