Russia5 October 2007
Eighteen coffins line Paris human rights plaza in homage to slain Russian journalists on first anniversary of Politkovskaya murder
Reporters Without Borders staged a ceremony today at the Trocadero human rights plaza in Paris to mark the first anniversary of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in Moscow, displaying photos of 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.
“We urge the Russian authorities not to identify convenient suspects in this case,” the press freedom organisation said. “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.”
Reporters Without Borders 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.”
Tomorrow, France’s new secretary of state for foreign affairs and human rights, Rama Yade, is due to show her support for all those seeking to know the truth in this case by placing a wreath at the stone that bear’s Politkovskaya’s name at the Journalists Memorial in Bayeux, in Normandy.
“This is not just a life that has been snatched away, it is also the truth that has died,” Yade is planning to say tomorrow to those attending the ceremony. The choice of the Journalists Memorial is particularly appropriate for a ceremony as Politkovskaya was gunned down in Moscow on the day it was inaugurated - 7 October 2006.
In other ceremonies in honour of Politkovskaya, Reporters Without Borders participated in the inauguration by the Rome municipal authorities of a square bearing her name. In Perpignan, in southwestern France, the municipal council on 24 September approved a decision to name a public area after her. And in Berlin, Reporters Without Borders is due to attend a gathering outside the Russian embassy on 7 October.
Meanwhile in Russia, the Politkovskaya murder case took a new turn on 2 October with the claim by Alexandre Bastrykin, the head of the Russian commission set up specially to oversee the investigation, to Izvestias that former Chechen official Shamil Burayev played the lead role in the organisation of the murder. On 27 August, prosecutor-general Yuri Chaika had announced the arrest of 10 other suspects.
The prosecutor’s office is working on the assumption that the murder was the work of a Chechen criminal gang with help from within the security forces. Investigators have also suggested that the instigator could have been someone based abroad. But a series of contradictory statements - for the most part unconfirmed - in recent weeks has fuelled doubts about the will of the authorities to really solve this murder.
Politkovskaya was one of the few Russian journalists to specialize in coverage of Chechnya. A story by her on torture in Chechnya, accompanied by photos, was due to have been published in Novaya Gazeta two days after her murder.
The French government awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour to President Putin on 22 September 2006 for “services to France and the causes it defends.” Reporters Without Borders complained to the Council of State about this award, calling it “a decision unworthy of France” and requesting its withdrawal. The request was rejected.