Wikinews, October 12, 2006 – Mario Corti, former head of Radio Liberty Russian Service, criticized pro-Kremlin media reporting on the murder of independent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya as an insult to the victim. In a commentary in Russian and English posted on FreeMediaOnline.org, Corti took issue with Russian media reports referring to President Putin’s assertion that Politkovskaya’s murder would benefit Russia’s enemies.     

In speaking with journalists in Dresden, Germany, on Tuesday, President Putin downplayed Politkovskaya’s importance by saying that “she had minimal influence on political life in Russia” and that her murder caused “much more harm than her publications did.” FreeMediaOnline.org reported that pro-government media in Russia interpreted this comment as a signal to journalists that the value of Politkovskaya’s reporting and, by implication, the work of other journalists should be measured by how much damage they cause to Russia’s reputation.

Corti wrote that Politkovskaya’s death was not a blow to Russia’s reputation but a blow to those who brought shame to Russia by their “evil deeds.” Politkovskaya’s reporting exposed numerous murders, cases of torture and other human rights abuses in Chechnya and in other parts of the former Soviet Union. Her reports angered the Russian establishment and she was frequently harassed and detained by Russia’s security services.

Corti also wrote that the pro-Kremlin media reaction to Politovskaya’s murder has caused many pro-democracy Russians to doubt whether they can still live in Russia. He countered, however, that her death has a greater meaning in showing that the struggle for human rights and for the dignity of all men has always required sacrifices. According to Corti, Politkovskaya loved Russia and wanted it to become a fully democratic country in which people respect each other, a country without torture, and a country in which the dignity of every person takes priority over everything else.

Corti was in charge of Radio Liberty’s Russian broadcasts from 1998 to 2003. He now works as an indepenent journalist and is a member of the FreeMediaOnline.org Board of Directors, a California-based nonprofit organization supporting media freedom worldwide.

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