Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Recently had an internal debate with myself about the role of media, of the effect that barrages of negative and apocolyptic news has on the psyche of a society (ie- the "culture of fear" firmly taking root in the US), about constantly drumming the beat of warning without offering constructive solutions... And then I read this article.

In the west, Politkovskaya's honesty brought her a measure of fame and a string of awards, bestowed at ceremonies in hotel ballrooms from New York to Stockholm. At home, she had none of that. Her excoriations of Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, ensured isolation, harassment, and, many predicted, death. 'I am a pariah,' she wrote in an essay last year. 'That is the result of my journalism through the years of the second Chechen war, and of publishing books abroad about life in Russia.'

Despite the fact that Politkovskaya was articulate, attractive and accomplished, she was barred from appearing on television, which is the only way the vast majority of Russians get news. To the degree that a living woman could be airbrushed out of post-Soviet history, she had been. 'People call the newspaper,' she wrote, 'and send letters with one and the same question: "Why are you writing about this? Why are you scaring us? Why do we need to know this?"' She provided an answer as much for herself as for any reader: 'I'm sure this has to be done, for one simple reason: as contemporaries of this war, we will be held responsible for it. The classic Soviet excuse of not being there and not taking part in anything personally won't work. So I want you to know the truth. Then you'll be free of cynicism.'

So, thanks to the Guardian for publishing this very intriguing in depth two-part article (really worth the read) and confirming what I deeply always believed. In countries like these- where information is not clear and poorly disseminated, media outlets are controlled, facts are dubious, and unfounded conspiracy theories are rampant- it is all the MORE important for journalists, and researchers and organizations like Transparency to report the facts and the results of their research- even if it is disconcerting and frightening.

No comments: