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Bearing Witness in Chechnya: The Legacy of Natalia Estemirova

Featuring Salman Rushdie, Michael Arena, Ann Cooper, Keith Gessen, Tanya Lokshina, and Elena Milashina

PEN American Center, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, CUNY's School of Journalism, and WITNESS present:

Bearing Witness in Chechnya: The Legacy of Natalia Estemirova


Salman Rushdie, Michael Arena, Ann CooperKeith Gessen, Tanya Lokshina, Elena Milashina, and Zarema Mukusheva

Thursday, October 29 at 7 p.m. FREE

Proshansky Auditorium, CUNY Graduate School, NYC

PEN American Center - one of the world's oldest literary and human rights organizations - joins forces with the Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), CUNY's School of Journalism, and WITNESS to pay tribute to Natalia Estemirova, the award-winning human rights activist and journalist murdered on July 15, 2009, while she was working on extremely sensitive cases of human rights abuses in Chechnya.  The tribute -- a free public event -- will feature readings and conversations to honor the legacy of Estemirova, while calling attention to concerns of freedom of expression in the provinces of the North Caucasus and Russia.  Participants will include Salman Rushdie (Best of Booker winning author, former PEN president), Michael Arena (former investigative reporter), Keith Gessen (co-editor-in-chief of n+1), Tanya Lokshina (Researcher at Human Rights Watch), Elena Milashina (journalist for Novaya Gazeta), and Zarema Mukusheva (filmmaker, human rights activist for Memorial, Grozny, Chechnya).  Ann Cooper, Professor at The Journalism School of Columbia University, will moderate.

Since 2000 Natalia Estemirova had been working for the highly respected Russian human rights organization Memorial in Grozny, Chechnya, where she documented the extrajudicial killings, abductions, rapes and other abuses perpetrated by various security forces since the second Chechen War (1999-2000).  A special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, she also served as a conduit to Chechnya for many western journalists. Despite the continued threats to her life, Estemirova continued to work with human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and to record the plights of Chechens, she served as  one of their voices to the world. She was the latest of several human rights campaigners of international renown (including journalist Anna Politkovskaya, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelow and journalist Anastasia Baburova) to be gunned down in today's Russia.

WHEN: Thursday, October 29, 2009, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Proshansky Auditorium

CUNY Graduate School

365 Fifth Avenue, NYC


Seating is by general admission, on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, please visit

This event is co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, CUNY's School of Journalism, and WITNESS.

About PEN American Center

Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is a fellowship of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression and persecuted writers and journalists, advancing literature and literary translation, and fostering international literary exchange.  It is the largest and most active of the 144 chapters in 101 countries that make up International PEN (founded in 1921).

About Human Rights Watch

Founded in 1978, Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

About the Committee to Protect Journalists

Founded in 1981, the Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1981. It promotes press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.


Founded in 1988, WITNESS uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations, empowering people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, public engagement and policy change. WITNESS partners with human rights organizations to train and support them to use video as an integral tool within a campaign.

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