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February 3, 2009

Unwanted liberty vs. death

Last May in this blog I tried to put the complaints of arts journalists in perspective by recalling the situation in Zimbabwe, where journalists are being killed by Robert Mugabe's thugs and one reporting on an anti-Mugabe arts festival in Harare asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

In December I fretted here about excessive whining from arts journalists as counter-productive to any kind of positive message that might win friends and grants and jobs. Now, with the economy in meltdown and print journalism itself under seige, arts journalists can at least see their dire fate as part of a larger domestic problem.

But what about Russia? Now, they have a serious journalism problem, and it isn't just economic. Many of the leading newpapers and television stations have been nationalized, which may save jobs but which sanitizes coverage. Four reporters from the independent Novaya Gazeta, which specializes in investigative stories, have been killed in the last eight years, the most recent on Jan. 19. The best known was Anna Politkovskaya, in 2006. Some 16 journalists overall have been murdered throughout Russia in this decade.

Who's doing it? Gangsters? Oligarchs? Ex-KGB operatives out of the Kremlin? The Kremlin has blamed Chechens for Politkovskaya's shooting, but others claim that's a crude cover-up.

So far, at least, such a fate has not befallen arts journalists, there or here; nobody has put a hit on Don Rosenberg. Not to make light of his situation or that of anyone who has been laid off or who worries that the axe might fall at any minute. The financial and psychological pain, not to speak of anger and old-fashioned professional pride, must be terrible.

But being shot down on a main street in your home town by someone with a pistol equipped with a silencer is worse. Especially when there seems no way to determine who is guilty and to being them to justice. 

February 3, 2009 1:37 PM | | Comments (0)

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