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AFP - September 20, 2007 Washington - Murdered Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya has been honored with the annual US Democracy Award, which this year recognizes journalists who risk their lives to provide honest information, officials told AFP Wednesday. Elena Mishilina, who accepted the award on behalf of her slain colleague on Russia's Novaya Gazeta newspaper at a ceremony in Washington on Tuesday evening, told AFP the award recognized Politkovskaya as a reporter and also the difficulties facing Russian journalists who rankle the government. "This is a very high level of recognition and it is very important for Anna and for us. It is even more important for us at Novaya Gazeta, where Anna has become a sort of guardian since her death," Mishilina told AFP. Three journalists from Novaya Gazeta have been killed in the past seven years, Mishilina said. The reporters at the paper have given extensive coverage to the war in Chechnya -- including Politkovskaya, who covered the breakaway region in the Caucasus for eight years -- as well as the Beslan school massacre and its aftermath. "I am sorry that Anna is not here because she would have got this award for her reporting if she were alive, too," said Mishilina, 29, an investigative reporter on the Beslan massacre. Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter and high-profile Kremlin critic, was shot dead in the elevator of her central Moscow apartment on October 7 last year, in what police said was a contract murder. Vin Weber, chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which presented the awards, said this year's honors "call attention to the courage of journalists who risk so much" by providing honest news and information to citizens of countries with "limited press freedom." In addition to Politkovskaya, Egyptian newspaper publisher and activist Hisham Kassem; Thai journalist Kavi Chongkittavorn; and Venezuelan press freedom watchdog, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), received the award. Kassem dedicated his award to Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 for "illegally divulging state secrets abroad". Shi had given a foreign-based website the text of a message about coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which the authorities had sent to his newspaper, Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News), according to Reporters Without Borders. Chongkittavorn is the publisher of the Nation group of newspapers. "But his main work is in promoting independent media in Southeast Asia, and he is especially involved in supporting the struggle for democracy in Burma," Jane Jacobsen, spokeswoman for NED, told AFP. Ewald Scharfenberg accepted the award on behalf of the Venezuelan press freedom monitoring institution, IPYS, which he leads. The IPYS media rights group helped lead protests in the South American country in May, when the politically independent television channel, RCTV, which is a stern critic of President Hugo Chavez, was shut down. "Scharfenberg and his organization are being singled out by people who point fingers at independent journalists, especially since they received grant support from our group," Jacobsen said.

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