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Veeram (Valour)

Navarasam series, graphite pencils on grey toned 150 gsm paper

“I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death.”

Irina Slavina

Irina Vyacheslavovna Murakhtaeva, also known as Irina Slavina, was a Russian journalist, founder and editor-in-chief of a popular independent media KozaPress, who took upon a career in journalism to make the world a better place. The outspoken and daring nature of her work and fights for democratic practices led to several administrative charges against her over the years, while she led a life laden with constant fear and anxiety. Her unrelenting nature must have made some people furious and unsettled, and the final blow was searching Irina’s apartment and turning it inside out, investigating her alleged involvement with extremist forces in Russia. It is said that she was constantly harassed by local security and counter-terrorism forces in the country and as several news media reported, the house search was ‘the final blow’ to the fierce journalist, when local law enforcement confiscated all her computer equipment.

Deeply violated and stolen of her life’s work, she staged her final protest- to lit herself to death in public as an act of deliberate political protest on the 2nd of October, 2020! When I first read the news report of how a Russian journalist committed suicide as she felt violated by the local government, I remember thinking to myself why they did not muster the courage to fight back. But digging a little deeper, I realise the strength and courage Irina possessed to protest with her life, to use herself as the fuel, quite literally, to lead her country and people from darkness to light, to a brighter future.

To me, that is Veeram or valour, a synonym for Irina . Press freedom is taken for granted these days, especially when there are plenty of examples of tainted media practices. I hope this will be an unforgettable wound on the face of democracy and that of competent, unbiased and independent journalism.

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