Leading article: A firebrand for freedom is extinguished

Share

Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated for her fearless investigations, for her outspoken writing and for her personal integrity. Of that there can be no doubt. She was gunned down in Moscow as she returned home from shopping. It was a prosaic and cruel end to a life lived with courage.

Ms Politkovskaya is the 12th Russian journalist to lose her life to an assassin. She was by a long way the most prominent and easily the best known outside the country. She was also, in the true sense, a dissident of the new Russia: one of a small band of journalists and intellectuals brave enough to challenge the way in which Russia's current leaders exercise their power.

She denounced their conduct in Chechnya, and the fate of the Chechens became a personal cause. She was one of very few of her compatriots to transcend the historical sense of national superiority and represent the Chechen case to Russia and to the world. And she never concealed a very personal hatred of President Putin. He was, in her view, a second-rate KGB officer who had never changed his nature, and was fast rolling back every post-Soviet freedom Russia had enjoyed.

It is tempting at such a time to forecast the end of what remains of free speech and democracy in Russia. To many of her less-driven colleagues, Ms Politkovskaya was a beacon of hope. So long as she could live, write and publish in her home country, albeit with difficulty, the hope was still alive that freedom would eventually prevail.

It is tempting, too, to imagine the hand of Mr Putin metaphorically pulling the trigger. Like dissidents down the ages, Ms Politkovskaya was a perpetual irritant to the powerful. Yes, Mr Putin and his Kremlin may have an easier ride without her. But there is also a sense in which her murder could not have happened at a worse time. It serves to reinforce all the most negative stereotypes of Mr Putin's Russia at the very time when the Kremlin has started to understand the need to improve its image abroad.

In recent weeks, Russia has experienced an upsurge in contract killings, and by no means all the victims are enemies of the Kremlin. The deputy head of the Central Bank, who campaigned against money-laundering, was murdered last month.

But whoever stands behind the murder of Ms Politkovskaya, Mr Putin cannot escape political responsibility for a climate in which the law is so readily flouted, contract killings are no rarity, and those who take a public stand - whether against the Kremlin or corruption - fear for their lives. We can only hope that the shock of Anna Politkovskaya's death will inspire others in Russia to continue her cause.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star