1st Dec 2011
Is Journalism Worth Dying For? by Anna Politkovskaya
The final articles of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya make for some of the most incredible, heartwrenching reading I have ever experienced. Is Journalism Worth Dying For? is a collection of her articles from the newspaper Novaya Gazeta from the start of the 21st century.
Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006, aged 48. Her articles mainly focus on the war between Russia and Chechnya, and they bring some very brutal facts to light. Politkovskaya is an example of investigative reporting at its very best.
When I first started reading this book I found it quite difficult to get into; I did not know much about the history or politics of Russia and Chechnya and found it hard to keep up with the names and actions of political leaders. However, I soon discovered the glossary of people and locations in the back of this book which made it much easier to understand.
Politkovskaya’s writing is everything good journalism should be; it is clear and objective and it is this objectivity which makes it harder to read. She writes about the suffering of young children and how young women become suicide bombers in their despair after they have lost their family.
One of the reports, entitled How to Recruit A Disposable Women’s Brigade, details exactly how young women have turned to suicide bombing. This and other reports about women and young children make for some of the most distressing reads I have come across.
Many people would use the term ‘like watching a car crash’ – this book caused me to feel so sad and angry at society but I could not put it down, I turned each page to discover more horrors I did not think could exist in today’s world.
One of the nicest touches to this book is a collection of articles called The Other Anna. These reports are not about war; in fact, my favourite one was a report about a sick dog she had bought and tried to look after despite it being terrified of every human being.
These articles were written in the same clear style that Politkovskaya always writes in, but showed a different side to the woman who many thought was so objective she was almost heartless.
Although the reports are fantastic, what I enjoyed most about this book is Anna Politkovskaya’s character. Throughout the tragedies she witnesses she never gives up hope that one day there will be peace; she never thinks that all is lost.
She was a Russian journalist who reported how badly the Russians were treating the people of Chechnya. If you know nothing about Russia/Chechyna relations, this is almost the same as a German journalist talking about how Hitler was persecuting the Jews in the early 1940s.
Her bravery knew no bounds but through her reporting it is clear to see she did not think of herself as brave; she merely felt she was doing her job as a journalist and exposing the world’s wrongs.
Anna Politkovskaya should be a role model and hero to all journalists and all women. She sought the truth despite death threats and poisonings and was never afraid to expose the wrongs of those in power.
A collection of condolences in the back of the book will bring a tear to the eye of even the most hardened reader and even though it’s five years since she was killed, it will arouse a feeling of loss for someone you may have known nothing about before.
Recommended for: Journalists at any level of experience; even the most well trained, hardworking journalists can learn from Anna Politkovskaya. Also for anyone interested in Russian politics; her articles give a true insight into the suffering of the people of Chechnya.
Other recommended reading: For those interested in reading more of Anna’s work, try her 2001 book, A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter In Chechnya.