Gauri Lankesh becomes first Indian journalist to win Anna Politkovskaya Award
Kannada journalist Gauri Lankesh, a strident critic of religious extremism who was shot dead last month, has been awarded a prestigious global award, given in the memory of a slain Russian reporter and political activist.
Lankesh, 55, shared the Reach All Women in WAR (RAW in WAR) Anna Politkovskaya Award with Gulalai Ismail, 31, a Pakistani peace activist who has faced death threats for speaking out against the Taliban.
“This award is a morale booster for people who want to write, and fight...It honours what Gauri stood for -- that you cannot silence me,” Lankesh’s sister, Kavitha, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation .
In a note, the award committee said, “It is not by coincidence that Gauri’s work, her personality and the way she was killed for her work reminded us so much of the way Anna lived and died for the truth”.
Lankesh is the first person from India to receive the honour.
Addressing a press conference here, Kavitha said the award does not belong to the family but to “everyone who stood by Gauri”.
Lankesh, an outspoken newspaper editor, was shot dead outside her home by unidentified assailants in Bengaluru on September 5, raising concerns about press freedom in India.
Opposition parties and critics say that journalists seen as critical of the ruling BJP and ts brand of Hindutva are often insulted on social media and women reporters have been threatened with assault.
Lankesh often wrote about religious violence, the malaise of India’s hierarchical caste system and criticised the rise of hardline Hindu groups since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in 2014.
Speaking about the investigation into Lankesh’s murder, Kavitha said the family will be happy only after the killers are brought to justice.
“I want the motive to be known so that Gauri will get justice,” Lankesh’s brother Indrajit said.
The family said they are in touch with senior officers of the special investigation team formed to probe the murder.
The family recently opposed a proposal to make a movie on the murder. Kavitha said the family doesn’t have a problem with people making a movie about the slain journalist. “But we don’t want it now, when the family is still mourning,” she said.
The award marks the 11th anniversary of the killing of Politkovskaya, a Russian investigative reporter and activist who uncovered state corruption and rights abuses, especially in Chechnya.
She was shot dead in the lobby of her Moscow apartment block at the age of 48 on October 7, 2006.
RAW in WAR, a London-based, non-governmental organisation supporting women human rights defenders and victims of war, also honoured Rohingya refugee Jamalida Begum, who spoke out publicly about her rape by Myanmar security forces.
(With agency inputs)