Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down Saturday outside her home in central Moscow in what appears to have been a contract hit, was not just a famous journalist. She was a symbolic figure, the incarnation of all that makes people both love journalists and hate them.
For me, Politkovskaya’s bravery, single-mindedness and readiness to get the story no matter what the risks involved, put her up there with Veronica Guerin of The Irish Times, who was killed by Dublin drug dealers in 1996 as revenge for her investigative articles.
Many will remember Joel Schumacher’s film about her story, with Guerin played by Cate Blanchett. The film was slammed by many critics for portraying the deceased journalist as highly ambitious and interested only in glory and celebrity. In fact, Guerin was completely different – modest and concerned only with telling her readers the truth. I once met Veronica and can vouch for this personally.
Politkovskaya was from the same mould. If anything, she was even less interested in money. She was more ascetic, more of a human rights activist. She had one main theme: human rights violations in Chechnya. She not only wrote about this, but tried to help people whose rights had been violated, to get them out of torture chambers and back on their feet. This was where the royalties from her articles and books went.
UPDATE: The reason for her death seems clear, according to a Russian blogger. She got too close to the truth.