Russian investigative journalist Yelena Milashina, who broke a major story this year by uncovering evidence of campaign of abuse against gay men in Chechnya, has been selected to receive a Harvard University award for integrity in journalism.
Harvard's Neiman journalism fellows announced on December 20 that they were also giving "special mention" to the work of Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who they said was considered for the award. Ismayilova is a contributor to RFE/RL
The Harvard group selected Milashina, a reporter for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, 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.
The Harvard scholars noted that Milashina played a critical role in an independent investigation into the killing of Chechen human rights defender Natalya Estemirova in 2009.
The announcement came on the same day that the United States, citing human rights abuses, imposed sanctions on Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and a Chechen security official it accused of involvement in the abuse of homosexuals.
Milashina also investigated the Kursk submarine disaster in 2000 and hostage crises at a Moscow theater in 2002 and a school in the southern Russian town of Beslan in 2004, and documented evidence of atrocities committed by the armies on both sides of the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict.
Milashina "reminds us why we became journalists," the Neiman fellows group said. "Her work and her persistence are important and inspirational at a time when reporters are being attacked by governments around the world, from the United States to Turkey to China."
"Milashina and her colleagues hold the powerful to account, and they do it despite the very real threats of death, imprisonment, and public scorn," they said.
The Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism will be presented to Milashina in early 2018 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.