Robert I. Friedman, an award-winning investigative journalist and author, dies at 51 from a rare blood disease he contracted while reporting in India.
By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at
the Washington Post.
Investigative journalist and author Robert I. Friedman, 51, whose exposés led to death threats from the Russian mob and a beating at the hands of radical Israeli settlers, dies from heart failure caused by a rare blood disease he contracted in India while reporting a story in 1995. "India's Shame," published in The Nation, revealed how sexual slavery and political corruption were creating an AIDS epidemic. "I think the amazing thing about Robbie was that he never regretted going to India and writing that article," says his widow, Christine Dugas, a reporter for USA Today. A profile in the January/February 2000 issue of AJR described how Friedman's ability to schmooze gangsters helped him produce groundbreaking stories and the book "Red Mafiya" on the expanding reach of Russian crime families. He did much of that work while battling the disease. "There were a couple of times where he would...work frenetically to meet a deadline and then the next day go in the hospital," recalls Micah Sifry, a friend and former associate editor at The Nation. When urged to slow down, Sifry says, Friedman would respond, "I have to do this. This is who I am."###