October 7, 2006, in Moscow, Russia
Politkovskaya, 48, a journalist renowned for her critical coverage of the Chechen conflict, was found slain in her apartment building in Moscow, according to international news reports. The Interfax news agency, citing police, said Politkovskaya had been shot and that a pistol and four bullet casings had been found.
Politkovskaya, special correspondent for the independent Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was well known for her investigative reports on human rights abuses by the Russian military in Chechnya. In seven years covering the second Chechen war, Politkovskaya's reporting repeatedly drew the wrath of Russian authorities. She was threatened, jailed, forced into exile, and poisoned during her career, CPJ research shows.
Igor Korolkov, a colleague, told the Regnum news Web site that Politkovskaya had been reporting on alleged torture in Chechnya for a coming story.
CPJ had named Politkovskaya one of the world's top press freedom figures of the past 25 years in the fall 2006 edition of its magazine, Dangerous Assignments. In an interview for that profile, Politkovskaya noted the government's obstruction and harassment of journalists trying to cover the Chechen conflict and pointed to the deadly 2004 hostage crisis in the North Ossetian town of Beslan. "There is so much more to write about Beslan," she told CPJ, "but it gets more and more difficult when all the journalists who write are forced to leave."
Politkovskaya was poisoned on her way to cover the Beslan crisis. After drinking tea on a flight to the region, she became seriously ill and was hospitalized – but the toxin was never identified because the medical staff was instructed to destroy her blood tests.
Politkovskaya had been threatened and attacked numerous times in retaliation for her work. In February 2001, CPJ research shows, security agents detained her in the Vedeno district in Chechnya, accusing her of entering Chechnya without accreditation. She was kept in a pit for three days without food or water, while a military officer threatened to shoot her. Seven months later, she received death threats from a military officer accused of crimes against civilians. She was forced to flee to Vienna after the officer sent an e-mail to Novaya Gazeta promising that he would seek revenge.
When Politkovskaya covertly visited Chechnya in 2002 to investigate new allegations of human rights abuses, CPJ research shows, security officers arrested her, kept her overnight at a military base, and threatened her. In October of that year, Politkovskaya served as a mediator between armed Chechen fighters and Russian forces during a hostage standoff in a central Moscow theater. Two days into the crisis, with the Kremlin restricting media coverage, Russian forces gassed the theater and 129 hostages died. Politkovskaya delivered some of the most compelling accounts of the tragedy.
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