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Journalist who risked her life to reveal Chechnya abuse honoured by Harvard

December 21, 2017
Protesting Chechnya

Berliner protesting the gay purge in Chechnya (John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

A Russian journalist who broke the news of Chechnya’s homophobic purge is to be honoured by Harvard university.

Elena Milashina, a journalist for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, uncovered evidence of campaign of abuse against gay men in Chechnya that shocked the world.

Ms Milashina did so against a backdrop of violence and oppression that risked her life in publishing the reports.

Harvard is to now honour her with an award recognising integrity in journalism.

The Harvard group selected Milashina for what they called her “groundbreaking and persistent investigative reporting on human rights abuses in Russia while enduring threats from powerful figures.”

It said Milashina had had to “work in the face of hostility and persecution from the nation’s leaders,” receiving death threats from Chechen officials and religious leaders for her reports of gay men being rounded up, detained, and tortured in the southern Russian region.

Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta broke the news earlier this year that more than 100 gay men have been detained in Chechnya “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation”.

After the story Milashina was forced into hiding when the region’s largest mosque declared jihad.

The disturbing reports, since corroborated by human rights groups, also alleged that the men are being held in secret concentration camp-style prisons where they face torture and abuse.

Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show at the time, Ms Milashina revealed she had been forced into hiding in the wake of the story.

Ms Milashina, who is usually based in Moscow, was forced into an undisclosed location.

Demonstrators LGBT Russia Britain
Demonstrators outside the Russian embassy (Getty Images)

She said: “They reacted [to the story] in a terrifying manner… on April 3, in the biggest mosque in Grozny, 15,000 people came together and declared a Jihad on us… not just me personally, but all journalists at Novaya Gazeta.

“They said the people at the newspaper who raised this question have damaged the honour of Chechen nation and should be prosecuted.”

She explained at the time: “We know about four secret prisons. Two of them in the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, one of them in Argun – this is the first secret prison we discovered where LGBT people were detained, beaten, tortured and killed.

London protests

“We got this information [a few] weeks ago and began to prove it. It’s pretty hard in Checnya, especially to rescue LGBT people, because they’re a very closed network. The region is very hard on those people and they have to hide.

“The Chechen government denied [the allegations], although they don’t deny that if they found this kind of people in Chechnya they would be killed.

“They don’t deny this, but they deny the secret camps and they have denied that they detained more than 100 people and killed some of them.”

More: Chechnya, journalism, LGBT, Russia

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