Two years ago, Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in the elevator of her building. Politkovskaya was a journalist who was well-known for covering Russian governmental abuses and, in particular, the wars in Chechnya. Her murder set off numerous protests, and from the beginning, a vocal minority suspected government involvement and doubted that justice would be done in her case. Four men were arrested and charged with her murder, but now that the case has gone to trial, there is renewed concern about the fairness.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Karri Ojanen, 2006 http://www.conceptology.org"][/caption]
Oleg Panfilov has documented many of the reasons for concern. Russia has a poor history of protecting journalists and of bringing their murderers to justice. The judge in the Politkovskaya trial has vacillated on allowing the public and press access to the proceedings. This has led to concerns that key parts of the trial will never be open to public scrutiny, thus throwing doubts on the outcome, whatever it may be.
At the same time, Russia is considering a law that would ban juries from cases involving suspicion of treason, terrorism, taking hostages and other serious crimes. Trial by jury is one of the signs of a free and open society, and the Russian government's consideration of banning such trials in certain instances is a cause for concern.
Anna Politkovskaya was a strong voice for openness and freedom of the press. We can hope that the trial of her alleged murderers ends with justice being served. However, the legacy of Politkovskaya as someone who was not afraid to uncover the governments abuses is threatened by the new law. Other journalists like Polikovskaya will not only need to fear for their lives because of their reporting. Now they may also need to fear the government who could arrest them and then hide the trial from the eyes of the public.