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Courage of 3 Female Reporters Honored

October 25, 2002|John L. Mitchell | Times Staff Writer

As an international journalism organization gathered in Beverly Hills on Thursday night to honor three female reporters for risking their lives covering world events, one of the honorees was instead returning to Russia, at the specific request of Chechen rebels holding hundreds of hostages.

Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist with the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was scheduled to receive a Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women in Media Foundation. Instead, she left for home at the behest of the terrorists who stormed a Moscow theater Wednesday night.

"They have confidence in her, and I hope that she will be let in," Maria Shkolnikova, a hostage, told the Russian Interfax news agency by mobile telephone.

The other journalists who received the awards Thursday at the Regent Beverly Wilshire are Canadian Kathy Gannon, the Associated Press bureau chief in Pakistan and Afghanistan, who covered the Taliban's reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and Sandra Nyaira of the Daily News in Harare, Zimbabwe, who won for coverage of government corruption there. Nyaira was forced to find refuge in a safe house after her newspaper's offices were bombed three times.

"We're giving out these awards so we can recognize the women on the front lines fighting for press freedom," said Sherry Rockey, executive director of the 12-year-old foundation. Hopefully, she said, the awards also offer a "mantle of protection" by signifying to the journalists' communities that the world is watching.

Politkovskaya was honored for balanced reporting that has prompted threats from both the Russian government and the Chechen rebels.

She has been arrested in Chechnya by Russian security forces and accused of entering Chechnya without proper credentials and of not registering with the military.

She has had to travel with bodyguards and was forced for a time into exile.

In a written statement to the foundation, Politkovskaya said, "It is a great honor for me to receive the Courage in Journalism Award. However, and I think you will agree with me, it is an even greater honor for me to respond when destiny offers the opportunity to help people when a crisis strikes."

Her response, Los Angeles Times publisher John P. Puerner told the awards gathering, demonstrates "the true measure of her courage." The rebels, he said, "know her and they trust her, because she is one Russian journalist who is not afraid to tell both sides of the story in the Chechnyan war. With the lives of so many at risk, Anna didn't hesitate. She had to go."

The foundation also paid special tribute to the nine journalists killed this year in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Judea and Ruth Pearl, parents of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, joined in that tribute.

Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory received the foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Times staff writers David Holley in Moscow and Mary McNamara in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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