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Sat April 16, 2011
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Russian Journalist's Writing Lives Past Her Murder

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, host:

There are brave reporters that work in several war zones now. And if American reporters do good work that's admired by the public and respected by their colleagues, they may expect to win awards, fame and appearances on "The Daily Show." But Reporters Without Borders says that 22 Russian reporters have been murdered since 2000. Not in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Chechnya but at home -in fact, often in their homes.

In 2006, Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment block in Moscow. She was perhaps the most famous journalist in Russia then, vividly reporting on the brutalities of the war in Chechnya and the intricacies of government corruption in a place where investigative reporters are vulnerable to imprisonment and attack.

Anna Politkovskaya was 48. She had two children.

"Is Journalism worth Dying For?" is the title of a new collection of the final dispatches of Anna Politkovskaya. Her sister, Elena Kudimova, joins us now from our studios in New York. Thank you so much for being with us.

Ms. ELENA KUDIMOVA: Thank you for inviting me.

SIMON: Much of the book, of course, is Anna's reporting and analysis from Chechnya. Why did she find the story there so compelling?

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Because it was the most troublesome area of Russia. And since Anna first went there in 1999, she was just - found it appalling. There were so many human suffering.

SIMON: She was detained by military officials in Chechnya there, I guess early in 2001, investigating complaints about punitive raids. And in 2002, of course, there was the famous hostage taking at a Moscow theater. And Anna was in Washington, D.C., and she was talking to U.S. officials about Chechnya, but then she was asked to come back as a negotiator.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Right.

SIMON: What happened?

Ms. KUDIMOVA: She just rushed back to Russia. And straight from the airport, she went to this place, which we called Dubrovka, and she was trying to negotiate with this people who took hostages. But you know what happened.

SIMON: Yes. I mean, they - the security forces, Russian security forces stormed the theater.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Exactly.

SIMON: Felt they had to, cause the negotiations weren't getting anywhere. And 67 hostages died.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Right.

SIMON: I gather from reading this book, Anna questioned whether she'd done any good.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Exactly.

SIMON: She certainly had no sympathy for terrorism. But she was also furious that nobody, as she said, nobody in Chechnya spoke up for good sense.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Of course not. There was nobody to intervene, you know. That's why it was so difficult for her.

SIMON: How worried did you get about your sister, Anna?

Ms. KUDIMOVA: You know, we all were very worried. And both our parents, Anna's children, we talked to her a lot, you know, about that she has to do something else; you know, just writing about other things in life. And at some point actually she decided that she would like to change.

It happened when she learned that her daughter became pregnant, 2006, and because Anna was killed when her daughter was about four months pregnant. So when she learned, she was so excited and she thought that when she has a grandchild, she will have to deal with some more pleasant things in life.

SIMON: We shouldnt forget Anna Politkovskaya was born in New York City.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Exactly.

SIMON: Your parents were diplomats.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Our father was diplomat, yes.

She could've moved here to the United States any time, couldn't she?

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Yes. And actually she was offered to take a grant and to move to some European country and write books instead of going to Chechnya. Several times she was about to accept the offer and to take a grant and move for half a year. But at the last moment, she always just decided no because there were other urgent things which she had to cover. She knew that there are people who needed her back in Russia.

SIMON: I have to ask you a very tough question.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Okay, I'm ready.

SIMON: Well, it's the title of the book: "Is Journalism Worth Dying For?"

Ms. KUDIMOVA: I think that's why Anna wrote this essay, because she thought that it is worth. Personally, I'm not sure that it is worth because I lost my sister.

SIMON: Elena Kudimova, thanks so much.

Ms. KUDIMOVA: Thank you.

SIMON: And some of the final dispatches of her sister were just published under that title we mentioned, "Is Journalism Worth Dying For?"

You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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