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Death of Diana; Politkovskaya Case

Aired August 31, 2007 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, I am Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS where we examine how the media are covering the big stories.
She starred in a story that captivated the world. This week, Diana, "The People's Princess", 10 years on, how is the press remembering her and is it accurate?

And arrests are made in the contract killing of Russian journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya. But some are calling the move an act of political convenience.

A decade ago this week, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris. On Friday, a memorial service was held in London to pay tribute to the Princess of Wales. She was a larger than life character. Her every move was talked about, reported in the press, and captured by the camera but did the media get it right?

I am joined now by Ingrid Seward. Ingrid's written about the British royal family for 17 years. She is the author of nine books on the subject and is the editor-in-chief of "Majesty Magazine."

And Robert Jobson, an award winning journalist and the royal correspondent for London's "Evening Standard."

Ingrid, let me begin with you. Ten years ago, can you remember exactly yourself the feelings that you had upon hearing the news of Diana's death?

INGRID SEWARD, "MAJESTY MAGAZINE": I do. I think everybody does. They remember where they were, most people in bed. In fact, the first call I got was from CNN. And it just said that Dodi had died and Diana was injured.

And I remember my husband saying, it's going to be a long night, turn the phone off. It's going to be a long week, I think he said. And that really sticks in my memory. But because all of us were working it wasn't until later the emotional impact hit. It wasn't until much later, actually.

SWEENEY: Robert Jobson, of course, it was a huge week with media and public frenzy in and around London. When it comes to Diana, where do you begin to talk about her and her relationship with the media? Where did it all begin?

ROBERT JOBSON, "EVENING STANDARD": Good question. I think the media relationship with Diana started way back in '81 and even before that, really, when she was just starting out as a princess in waiting.

SWEENEY: But when did she become aware of the media? Did you think she was always aware of it?

JOBSON: Pretty early on. I think that she realized that it was a huge impact and the media, you knew the sequence, Charles was on one side in the street when they were on a walkabout and Diana on the other and they had literally grown when Prince Charles walked over and there would be Diana and there was just total adulation.

So I think she realized she had impact very early on. She only started to use that impact, I think, much later in life when she started to take up crusades that were in the shadows, like AIDS and the landmines. She realized that she could do something for good.

SWEENEY: But surely in terms of the press she also had a relationship with them when it came to the deterioration of the relationship with her husband.

SEWARD: Yes she did. But at the beginning she was very embarrassed by the attention they gave her and not him. She was - she knew he was unhappy with it.

SWEENEY: But there are some who say that he actually - Tina Brown said she actually thought Charles fell in love with her through the eyes of the media, when he saw how the media invoiced (ph) her. I can see there is a smirk there. You don't quite agree .

SEWARD: I don't agree with that at all and that's absolutely rubbish. And Diana says, and we only have to believe her, that Charles did love her. I'm not saying he loved her all the time but there was a stage in their marriage and I think they were in love and he tried to make it work.

He was jealous of her, though. He was jealous of the power that she could bring to anything she did even if she had a new dress on.

JOBSON: I think that's absolutely - I don't agree with Tina at all. I think that Prince Charles and Diana were in love. I think it's easy with hindsight to talk about, he was totally besotted with Camilla and never let her go. I don't think that was the case. I think Prince Charles is a vulnerable man. I think he tried to make his marriage work. And there was clearly a connection between Charles and Diana. You'll have to look at this pictures of them dancing and having fun together.

I think that he liked teaching Diana at the outset. It's only when the Diana effect sort of snowballed, that it got out of control, that really, and annoyed Prince Charles and then they had problems personally which happens in a lot of relationships.

SEWARD: So he was a Professor Higgins, really. I always thought he was a Professor Higgins. And his protege became too much.

SWEENEY: At what point do you think that she began to, when she had realized she had won the media, then began to use it to her advantage as the marriage breakdown evolved?

SEWARD: I personally don't think it was a conscious effort. I think it was subconscious. I think she was frightened.

SWEENEY: You don't think the Andrew Morton book was .

SEWARD: Oh, that was, but the marriage was long broken down by then. I think what happened, she realized, obviously she knew what she could do but she was - she wasn't very bright, Diana. She was savvy and funny but she wasn't very bright and I think it just evolved, her manipulation of the media, because she was frightened. She had no one to turn to and she was still very young and to have that kind of press attention scared her so she started to use it to her own advantage.

SWEENEY: And then she began to embrace it. In terms of putting out a book like the one she collaborated with, with Andrew Morton, and using the press is a double-edged sword because it can work against you. Do you think the press began to work against her apart from perhaps those, obviously, on Charles' side?

JOBSON: Well, undoubtedly there was a split because some newspapers supported Diana and some newspapers supported the establishment and Prince Charles. The fact was, I think Diana started to go against the establishment once she realized she had lost Prince Charles. And I think that she was furious about the whole relationship with Camilla, which was probably started a lot earlier than has been acknowledged and I think she wanted to sort of almost prove to Prince Charles through the media, through the attention she was getting, that there was no one better than her and she didn't understand his relationship with Camilla.

But as Ingrid rightly says by the Morton book, she was looking for a way out.

SWEENEY: OK. So when she uses the press to put her point of view across, Ingrid Seward, was there ever any point in her life that the press is beginning to turn against her actively?

SEWARD: Well, I think the press wrote some pretty savage things about her .

SWEENEY: Even her own supporters in the press. I'm not talking about those who were just supporting Charles.

SEWARD: Oh yes. I mean, she would then ring them up and say, how could you write that about me? Or she'd ring somebody else up and write a contrary story. She had some quite savage press even from the early days because that's what they do. I mean, that's what Prince Charles said. They build you up, put you on a pedestal and knock you down again.

JOBSON: I don't think - I think in hindsight, I hear what Ingrid says, but I think at the time there was some of the criticism of Diana and yes, I think when she was getting out of control and behaving irrationally, there was criticism of Diana but most of the time the media was positive about Diana, they saw her, I think initially as Shy Di then Caring Di. There wasn't really major attacks against her but when she started to use the media, use journalists to put her on the cross, which was quite vicious and sometimes inaccurate and it was a dangerous game.

SWEENEY: We'll leave it there for the moment but we're going to continue this. Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, the continuance of our conversation about the Diana. Did the late princess achieve something in death that she couldn't in life? We look at her legacy.

Also ahead, in Russia, is it a free press for a select few? Putin's power and its effect on the media.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world watched Diana's funeral services. In death, as in life, Princess Diana can overshadow the House of Windsor, even the ceremony marking her passing has been mired in controversy.

I'm joined again by Ingrid Seward, the editor in chief of "Majesty Magazine" and Robert Jobson, the royal correspondent for the "Evening Standard."

Robert Jobson, on that particular day there couldn't have been more heightened media interest in the life and death of Diana, Princess of Wales. What was her relationship with the press like at the time?

JOBSON: I think at the stated time of her death, there was a breakdown of communications, if you like, between a lot of the journalists that covered the royal family, including myself, and the princess and actually I was in Moscow with Robin Kig (ph) at the time of her holidays, but there was a boatful of journalists down there and she actually was furious at some of the coverage she was getting. She actually went over, confronted, a few of my colleagues, James Ridicure (ph) and a few other guys there and said, you're in for a big surprise.

SWEENEY: At that time you didn't know about her relationship with Dodi Fayed.

JOBSON: I think it had been pretty well speculated who was on the boat and what was going on. And no, we didn't know the detail of it, that came out slightly later but it was clear that she was behaving, I feel, irrationally at that time and I was probably the - her death was a culmination of a lot of irrational and bizarre activity leading up to her trip to Paris.

SWEENEY: Ingrid Seward?

SEWARD: I totally agree with that. I mean, I remember even when we knew for sure about Dodi Fayed, writing things about, how can Diana be with this Egyptian playboy? Has she gone off her rocker? And what is Diana doing cavorting around in the Mediterranean, exposing her kids to all this publicity and why she was with Mohammed Fayed.

She had a really bad press. Really bad.

SWEENEY: And is it fair to say it was a parasitical relationship and had her life continued, her dependence on the media, the media's dependence on her would have increasingly been more and more out of control?

SEWARD: I don't think so. I think this was just a summer of madness, I would say. And I think she would have had to calm down. I mean, she was going to blow up, which is what happened, or calm down. She had to. She had some really strong ideas about what she wanted to do in the immediate future.

SWEENEY: Ten years after her death is it appropriate to revisit Diana and her legacy and those who say that she shouldn't be glorified and those who will have no - hear no ill spoken of her?

JOBSON: Well, Diana is a historical figure now and obviously you're going to have positive reviews and negative and I think that's healthy.

Diana is someone we should be able to review constructively and with constructive criticism. I'm glad at the number of books that have been written by - in the first person by people close to her because it's - one is then able to make a judgment from people at the time because you can see what actually happened rather than be a conjecture.

SWEENEY: And as time passes, how do you think she will be remembered?

SEWARD: I think she will be remembered in a more and more iconic way. I think it's a bit like Julius Caesar except the opposite way round, so that they evil that she did, which I suppose you could say was evil, will die with her, and the good that she did will be remembered.

And I'm sure that that's what's going to happen. I mean, Germaine Greer's (ph) article was extremely interesting. It was her opinion. It was well written. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I do feel very strongly that the good Diana has done is more positive now than the bad things she might have done.

JOBSON: I think also, which is important, which we haven't really reflected upon is because there's been so much publicity about the conspiracy theories and how she died, that many people have forgotten about the good things that she achieved in her life. The fact that she was a beacon of hope for a crisis such as AIDS, she actually changed people's perception of that terrible disease. The fact that she was prepared to take risks, these are things that I think people should remember about Diana. She was alwastaker (ph), she changed the monarchy for good for a short time and I think her legacy ultimately will be that she influenced her sons William and Harry, who after all, are the future of the monarchy.

SWEENEY: (inaudible). Robert Jobson, Ingrid Seward, thank you both very much indeed.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, it was a murder that ignited concern about the security for journalists in Russia. This week, arrests were made in the contract killing of Anna Politkovskaya but many are questioning the motives.


SWEENEY: On Monday Russian authorities arrested 10 suspects in connection with last year's killing of an outspoken journalist. Anna Politkovskaya's murder has been shrouded in mystery. But are these latest developments truly a major break in the case? Or, as critics claim, just part of an elaborate ruse by the Kremlin?

Our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance has more from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was during this photo call with the Russian president that the country's top prosecutor announced a major breakthrough in his most high profile murder investigation. He said 10 people had been arrested for the killing of Anna Politkovskaya including the leader of a Chechen organized crime gang and members of the Russian security services.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Former and current officials of the Interior Ministry as well as a Federal Security Service officer followed her and supplied information to criminal groups.

CHANCE: Anna Politkovskaya was one of Russia's most controversial investigative journalists. Fiercely critical of the Kremlin and its war on the breakaway Russian Republican of Chechnya. She was gunned down in the lift of her Moscow apartment building last October. Closed circuit television showed a single gunman carried out what police say was a mafia style hit.

For months before she died, Anna Politkovskaya had been collecting grisly videos like this one documenting alleged human rights violations in Chechnya, especially by the Kremlin-backed authorities there. Colleagues have speculated this is why she may have been killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Somebody has asked you directly who is guilty of Anna's death, who has killed her?

CHANCE: She was also close to Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian agent turned Kremlin critic poisoned in London last year. He had accused the Kremlin of sanctioning her death.

The Russian prosecutor general says there may be connections between the Politkavskaya killings and other high profile murders in Russia, particularly the death in 2004 of the editor of the Russian "Forbes" magazine, Paul Kletnikov (ph).

But he didn't comment directly on accusations of Kremlin involvement. Instead, he said the murders were a provocation by forces bent on destabilizing Russia and discrediting its leadership. Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


SWEENEY: On Thursday prosecutors released two suspects in the killing of Politkavskaya and Russian news agencies have reported that a third is no longer linked to the case.

While nowhere near as dangerous as Iraq, Russia is still one of the deadliest countries in the world for media. Well, to discuss the state of journalism in Russia, I'm joined by Jill Dougherty, U.S. affairs editor for CNN and previously CNN's Moscow bureau chief.

And Michael Specter, a staff writer at the "New Yorker" magazine.

Jill, does the developments of this week surprise you? The arrests and the subsequent releases?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN EDITOR: I think the news that they actually had quote, "solved" the case did surprise me because after all, apparently all of the cases for years and years have never been solved. No information. So, lo and behold, they came out with this rather quickly under Russian standards. However, the other shoe dropped when they said that they did not use his name, that they said that a person outside of the country was most likely the person who had ordered this.

Now, that's where the big question comes in. Who wanted Anna Politkavskaya killed and it seems to fit what they're saying into this pattern of how they are explaining a lot of events in Russia right now.

There are outside forces, they would argue, that are trying to bring down the regime and usually this means Boris Berezovsky (ph), the oligarch who lives in London.

SWEENEY: Michael Specter, your take?

MICHAEL SPECTER, "NEW YORKER": I think even for the Kremlin this is an amazingly cynical act. They arrested 10 people, they released three of the leading suspects within two days. They acknowledged that they haven't finished their investigation, they blame, let's be honest, Boris Berezovsky who may or may not be guilty of many things but this is very difficult to believe that he's guilty of this.

And they basically said the same thing President Putin said weeks after she was killed. That this had to be planned by someone outside the Russian Federation when there is absolutely no evidence and no reason to believe that could possibly be true.

SWEENEY: But how important, Michael Specter, do you believe it is for the Kremlin to be seen to be doing something about her murder and at least be seen to try to find her killers?

SPECTER: Well, politically I think it's important. It made a big fuss in the West - people care about her death. People care about what it says about Russia. And so I don't think they can do nothing but frankly in many ways this is worse than doing nothing.

SWEENEY: Jill, what is your understanding of where President Putin is taking media in Russia? I mean, I've been reading a lot about this recently and there are those who, journalists who say bad and all as it is now, it was much worse under Soviet times and it was even much worse just at the start of the Yeltsin years.

DOUGHERTY: Well, you can debate that point but I think where he is taking it is where he is taking the entire society. Which is to centralize control in every aspect of society, whether it's media, civil society, you name it, it is centralized control.

Now what does that mean? It means that in essence, Russians are getting most of their news, average Russians, from television. And then you have a little tiny world out there that discusses politics and that essentially is one radio station in Moscow, which has broadcasts in other parts of the country and you have tiny newspapers that peep up some type of debate.

But very few people really read them so it is all TV, it is centrally controlled.

SWEENEY: When Boris Yeltsin took over, Michael Specter, so he wasn't averse to having a new burgeoning media. It was just something perhaps he hadn't focused his attention but many newspapers sprang up. But newspapers today are hardly read in Russia, as Jill says. Most Russians get their news from television and you know of course who controls the television stations.

SPECTER: That's true. I mean, I was there when Boris Yeltsin took over and when all these newspapers sprang up. But economically it was a different time and a more perilous one and a lot of these papers existed basically on fumes. But there were tons of them and they wrote really exciting things and they debated things in the way you'd like to see things debated at the beginning of a new country and one by one they fell apart, some for economic reasons, some for other reasons.

And what exists now, and there are some good ones, and "Novaya Gazeta" where Anna worked is one of them, they don't matter. The only people that read them are the people who are worldly and sophisticated anyway. They don't get to talk to anyone. They don't get picked up by anyone and it's just an echo chamber for 20 or 40,000 Russian intellectuals.

SWEENEY: So, Jill, is it possible to explain what has happened, that burgeoning interest on the part of the Russian people in newspapers and freedom of information and now to be quite satisfied with watching the plethora of television stations that serve up, as you say, talk shows, soap operas, etc?

DOUGHERTY: You know, Fionnuala, I think the image that a lot of people have in the West is that there is some soldier standing at the door with machine guns telling the journalists what to do. It's not like that at all. It's very, very cozy. It is the people who are in charge of the networks and the stations know what they're supposed to do. That's why they've been hired. They have certain subjects they don't talk about which would be Chechnya, you don't touch President Putin in a critical fashion. You simply don't. And that's the way it is and everybody knows the rules.

So it's different from Soviet times but it's very, very pervasive. Now, why don't people stand up and demand to have more credible news? People are tired. I guess you'd just have to say they're tired of a lot of that, unfortunately perhaps. They're more interested in how their daily lives are going to go. Can they buy an apartment? Can they buy a car? Can they go on vacation to Spain?

And that is a lot of what motivates people. You can understand it. It is hard to condone it. But that's I think, the reality.

SWEENEY: And Michael Specter, then, does that render the murder of Anna Politkavskaya and the work she did practically - useless is the wrong word, I know, but you know what I'm saying. If it hasn't got an impact within its own country, what was the point of it having an impact internationally?

SPECTER: Well, I think it does have an impact within its own country and having an impact internationally means eventually having an impact in Russia because even though Russia would like not to have to do it, it's a player in the world.

But what Jill said is true and I think this would be true in America or anywhere else. Most people are living better in Russia than they did 10 or 15 years ago. They have nicer homes, they have more money, they have more access to leisure and pleasure and clothes and education and healthcare and they really don't care about theoretical things like freedom of speech.

And I can understand and it will be the case until they realize that not having it is rather important.

SWEENEY: All right. There we must leave it. Jill Dougherty in Washington, DC. Michael Specter in New York. Thank you both very much indeed for joining us.

And finally this week, it is a cyberoffensive. Chinese authorities are to send to virtual officers to patrol the Internet. A cartoon policeman and policewoman will pop up in Web pages every 30 minutes, patrolling Beijing's major news portals starting this weekend and all Web sites by year's end. The animated figures will walk, bike or drive across the screen, warning users to stay away from quote, "illegal content."

Well, that's all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.