Profile of Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya's last assignment, an investigation into alleged torture by Chechen government-backed militia, covered ground as familiar as it was dangerous.

As special correspondent for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Politkovskaya had covered the Chechen war for seven years with an unwavering focus on human rights abuses.

Her tough-minded reporting on topics that other media shunned had angered Russian authorities for years.

Archives from the Committee to Protect Journalists bulge with cases in which Politkovskaya was threatened, abused, jailed and poisoned for her work.

Two days before her latest report was to be published, Politkovskaya, 48, was executed in her Moscow apartment building.

Her murder on Saturday was the 13th contract-style slaying of a journalist in Russia since President Vladimir Putin took office in 2000.

In an e-mail interview with CPJ shortly before her murder, she expressed frustration at the deteriorating media situation in Chechnya -- and what she saw as the international community's inability to effectively intervene.

Politkovskaya was willing to take direct action herself at times, most notably when she tried to mediate the 2002 hostage standoff in a Moscow theater.

But her work frequently made her the target.

In February 2001, security agents detained her in Chechnya's Vedeno district, keeping her in a pit for three days without food or water.

Seven months later, she was forced to flee to Vienna, Austria, after receiving death threats from an officer accused of crimes against civilians.

In her interview with CPJ, Politkovskaya noted the government's long history of obstructing journalists covering the Chechen conflict, and she 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."

Nina Ognianova is program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Politkovskaya was poisoned on her way to cover Beslan.

After drinking tea on a flight to the region, she became seriously ill and was hospitalized. The toxin was never identified because the medical staff was instructed to destroy her blood tests.

Russia's investigative record does not bode well.

Since 2000, none of the contract-style journalist murders have been solved.

Nina Ognianova is program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

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