Rice: Slain Writer Politkovskaya Symbol of Independent Journalism

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Anna Politkovskaya’s colleagues and son that the slain reporter was a symbol of independent journalism, and said the U.S. had called on Russia to investigate journalists’ killings.

Rice met with reporters and editors from Novaya Gazeta on Saturday during her visit to Moscow, and the paper published an interview with her Monday.

“She was a heroine for me,” Rice was quoted as saying in the Russian-language transcript. “Anna Politkovskaya was a symbol of the best that is tied with independent journalism.”

Politkovskaya — who had exposed killings, torture and other abuses against civilians in Chechnya — was gunned down in an apparent contract killing in her apartment building on Oct. 7. The perpetrators have not been found.

The murder awakened a chorus of protest from foreign governments and international organizations.

Rice said U.S. officials had communicated to the Russian government that it must investigate the killings of journalists over the past few years, including of three Novaya Gazeta reporters, and that those responsible must be made to understand that they would be brought to justice.

“You are not alone in your struggle,” Rice was quoted as telling the newspaper’s employees.

At least 13 journalists have been killed in contract-style slayings in the six years since Vladimir Putin became president and ushered in restrictions on the media, according to the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists. Many appear to have been targeted because of their attempts to dig into allegations of corruption. The killers have rarely been found.

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