Yesterday, in broad daylight, in the center of Moscow, a human rights lawyer and a journalist were gunned down. Lawyer Stanislav Markelov was most famous for representing the family of Elza Kungaeva, a young Chechen woman killed by a Russian officer, in a case that polarized the Russian Federation. Anastasia Baburova was a young journalist for Novaya Gazeta - a publication that is still mourning the death of another journalist, Anna Politkovskaya.
This week, some across Russia are celebrating this tragedy. Comments on Baburova’s Live Journal site have been shut off, but before they were, news of neo-Nazis gloating over her death had spread far and wide. Others are merely wagging their finger at “poor Nastya” for having “kept bad company” - meaning, of course, that she should have known better than to hang out with the hated Markelov.
It looks as though “the enemy of the people” may be a phrase that we will have to start using in earnest again.
Killing human rights defenders and journalists is the first offensive of a corrupt government. It is an effective silencing technique that destroys freedom of expression and passively permits criminality. It is why there is a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and organisations such as Reporters Without Borders.