In the troubled North Caucasus, free uncensored journalism is intrinsically intertwined with the denouncement of human rights abuses, which are still taking place on an almost daily basis.
Below are the stories of a few of the journalists committed to documenting realities of life in North Caucasus republics – in many cases at the price of their own life.
Beyond the sacrifices of a few brave men and women, what’s left behind is the never-ending lack of reaction from the international community and the same brutal reality, hidden behind flashy photographs of a rebuilt Grozny and Russian news reports of a miraculous return to normality in the region.
In 1999 she was invited to work as an observer to an independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Since then, Anna Politkovskaya dedicated herself to uncovering human rights abuses and denouncing the corruption in Kremlin.
In November 1999, she organized the evacuation of 89 residents of Grozny Nursing Home (ethnic Russians) from the war zone, and helped them settle in various regions of Russia. In the summer of 2000, 22 elderly where forcefully returned to Grozny by the Russian authorities. Politkovskaya wrote: “the purpose of this action was to demonstrate to the world that the conflict in Chechnya is over”. The elderly found themselves without water, medication, food and clothes. On her initiative, Novaya Gazeta collected 5.5 tons of humanitarian aid and 5000 dollars to help them.
In 2001, while reporting on the war in Chechnya, she was detained by Russian troops. During the interrogation, she was reportedly beaten and threatened.
Seven years on the front line – Anna’s 7 years of work with exclusive footage
One of the cases she worked on was a false amnesty promised by Putin in 2000. See video below and full story here Cruel amnesty
In October 2002, Anna participated in negotiations with the Chechens who had seized the theater in Moscow. Together with Doctor Leonid Roshal, she was allowed into the building of the Theater. They handed fresh water and other food and drinks to the hostages.
When the Beslan school siege happened, Politkovskaya flew to Beslan in hope to speak with the terrorists and prevent the final tragedy. She was heavily poisoned in the plane, but survived the assassination attempt.
On October 7 2006, she was shot dead while entering her apartment block.
Books by Anna Politkovskaya (click on photo)
Natalya Estemirova – born on 28 February 1958 to Russian and Chechen parents. She graduated from Grozny University with a degree in history.
In 1991 she started her journalism career; during the first Chechen war she started to document human rights abuses on civilians by the Russian army.
Estemirova was a frequent contributor to the independent Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and personally collaborated with Anna Politkovskaya.
Her documentation of human rights abuses continued as she became a board member of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial.
On 15 July 2009, Estemirova was abducted in front of her flat in Grozny as she was leaving for work. Two days later, her body was found in neighboring Ingushetia.
Testimonies of Novy Aldy massacre survivors, interviewed by Natalya
In 2007, Natalya was the first person to be awarded the Anna Politkovskaya award for her work
“Accident” during which an opponent of Russian policies is killed while in police custody
Maksharip Aushev, the man who continued his work, was assassinated one year later
Pulitzer Center’s project “Journalism and Censorship in the Caucasus”
Elena Maglevannaya exposed the torture of Chechen detainees in Russian prisons. Read more here
Zurab Markhiev (of Ingushetia): “If you are a journalist in the Caucasus you have to be a human rights defender at the same time.”
Read more here
Fatima Tlisova on reporting journalist murders in the Caucasus
Murder reports Caucasian Knot correspondent assassinated in Dagestan
NOTE: The above stories reflect only a few examples of brutality against journalists as the real numbers of abuses are countlessly multiplied.
To read about ongoing human rights abuses in North Caucasus, click on the links below
Analysis on Russian media censorship (minute 11:35)