The Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI) has decided to name Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya as one of its World Press Freedom Heroes.

“Politkovskaya’s nomination as our 51st World Press Freedom Hero is a tribute to her bravery, but also an acknowledgement of the struggles of the many courageous journalists working in Russia,” said IPI Director Johann Fritz. “Over 20 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000; most were killed with impunity.”

“Her murder is a shock and a loss. IPI believes that she made a significant contribution to journalism and to the cause of human rights. We pay respect to her courage and her exceptional determination, and call on the Russian authorities to ensure that there is a thorough investigation into her murder.”

Anna Politkovskaya, a well-known Russian investigative journalist and political commentator, was found shot dead in the lift of her apartment building in Moscow on 7 October 2006. She worked as a reporter for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was finishing an investigative story on torture in Chechnya, which was to be published on 9 October. On 12 October, Novaya Gazeta published the incomplete article.

Politkovskaya, who had extensively reported on the situation in Chechnya and was known for her critical reports, gained international recognition for her work and received several awards. Her reports drew attention to human rights abuses in the region, which were committed by both the local authorities and independent groups.

Her colleagues, family, and others expressed no doubt that the killing came as a direct result of her work. Colleagues said she had received several threats before the murder.

In October 2001, Politkovskaya fled to Vienna for several months after receiving threats claiming that a Russian police officer she had accused of committing atrocities against civilians wanted to take revenge. In interviews, Politkovskaya said that the threats could also have been linked to her coverage of a Russian military helicopter that had been shot down in Chechnya in September 2001.

Politkovskaya acted as a negotiator during the Moscow theatre siege in 2002. In 2004, she had been forced to delay her travel to North Ossetia during the Beslan hostage crisis under suspicious circumstances. Politkovskaya became ill after drinking tea during the first part of her flight to Beslan. She was diagnosed with acute food poisoning at a clinic in Rostov and returned to Moscow for treatment.

In 2000, IPI named 50 World Press Freedom Heroes from around the globe to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its founding. The 50 World Press Freedom Heroes were chosen from a long list of journalists who have made a significant contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom in their country or on a global basis over a period of time in the last 50 years, especially if this involved acts of bravery or resistance under harsh conditions.