Sunday, February 22, 2009

Honor if not yet justice for women journalists

“Words can save lives,” said Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya (left, © UNESCO), about whom we've posted, along with other women journalists killed in the line of duty. Politkovskaya was assassinated in October 2006; on Thursday, a Moscow jury acquitted the three "low-level" suspects. Amnesty International researcher Friederike Behr monitored portions of the trial and indicated it was fair. After over 2 years of investigation, the authorities were unable to produce clear evidence of guilt, perhaps because they were not looking in the right place. Politkovskaya criticized Kremlin policy with respect to Chechnya and met the fate that is becoming all too familiar: just a month before the trial, a human rights lawyer and a 25-year-old reporter were killed in broad daylight, and the Committee to Protect Journalists has said that 16 journalists have been killed in Russia because of their work since 2000. Indeed, Miklos Haraszti, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's representative for media freedom claims that "Russia is a country where for years and years now, journalists who cover human rights issues and corruption are being murdered and assaulted." On Friday, however, the presiding judge offered a bit of hope that Politkovskaya's killers may be found and brought to justice by ordering the case reopened.
In bright contrast to this sombre saga, the annual Journées Olympe de Gouges in Montauban, France, are dedicated this year to women journalists. As readers may recall, Olympe de Gouges, an IntLawGrrl foremother, was an 18th-century humanist who wrote a Declaration of the Rights of Women and was guillotined during the French Reign of Terror. Each year, the city of her birth honors her with days filled with documentaries, theater, art exhibits, discussions of research, conferences etc. on topics related to the rights of women and citzens. The Journées will be held March 5, 6 and 7 this year; this year's "godmother" is Lebanese television journalist May Chidiac (right, © UNESCO) Chidiac survived, minus an arm and a leg, a car bomb in 2005, continues her work as a journalist and, in 2006, was awarded one of the three Courage in Journalism Awards presented by the International Women's Media Foundation, as well as the the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Write on, grrls!

1 comment:

redwood said...

After over 2 years of investigation, the authorities were unable to produce clear evidence of guilt, perhaps because they were not looking in the right place. Politkovskaya criticized Kremlin policy with respect to Chechnya and met the fate that is becoming all too familiar: just a month before the trial, a human rights lawyer and a 25-year-old reporter were killed in broad daylight, and the Committee to Protect Journalists has said that 16 journalists have been killed in Russia because of their work since 2000.

I have no doubt that Russia is knocking-off legitimate journalists (women, transgender, and men).

But the USG's own record of allowing CIA operators to pose as journalists and the USG's funding of NGO's that independently employ journalist bent on subverting other governments endangers legitimate reporters such Anna Politkovskaya.

While I appreciate the importance of mourning the courage of Anna Politkovskaya, we honor her life best by changing US policy, in particular the US policy that uses as cover the journalism profession.

Once that practice is changed, we'll have some moral authority to question Russia and the rest.