Sad to say, nowadays the profession of journalism remains one of the most dangerous occupations. We can find many examples of North American journalists having endured pressure, legal prosecution, loss of job or even health. All of this takes place in western democracies, a backbone of which has always been the freedom speech. Their colleagues from less developed countries fulfil professional responsibilities under harsher conditions. At times, they risk not only their career and freedom but also their own lives.
The situation is extremely difficult in Eastern Europe where corrupt officials often happen to silence unwanted journalists by all means.
Last year the young journalist Victoria Marinova was killed in Bulgaria. Victoria was a first female journalist in the history of the Bulgarian media to conduct serious investigation on the matter of corruption at the highest levels of government. Being the administrative director of the TVN channel, Victoria hosted a television program “Detector”. Just before her death, she investigated the misappropriation of funds of the EU by Bulgarian officials.
On 6 October last year, Victoria Marinova was killed in the Ruse town park. Before being killed, she was cruelly bitten and sexually violated. According to the official investigation, the homicide was not connected to the professional activity of the victim. Nevertheless all representatives of journalistic community are certain that the crime was politically motivated.
Also in 2018, an investigative journalist Jan Kuciak (Slovakia) and a political activist Katherine Gandzuk (Ukraine) were killed. The both actively raised the issue of corruption in their countries. Jan Kuciak scrutinized connections of the corrupt Slovakian politicians with the Italian mafia. The investigation of Kuciak resonated widely in the Slovakian society. The characters of his reportages didn’t forgive such an attack. They understood that he was not going to stop exposing corrupt officials and their crimes. The corruption chain led to the highest echelons of power.
Katherine Gandzuk repeatedly reported to the media about large-scale corruption in the Ukrainian State apparatus. She revealed quite a lot of evidence of intertwining of police and criminal networks in Ukraine. Katherine criticized corruption in the ministry of internal affairs headed by an oligarch Arsen Avakov. Last August, Katherine Gandzuk was doused with sulfuric acid on her way to work. Several months ago, she died from the effects of serious burns. Shortly before passing away, showing her mutilated face on video she said “I know that now I look bad, but I know for sure that I look much better than justice and fairness in Ukraine do”.
Corrupt regimes in some countries try to control the media totally, to intimidate those who say honestly and openly about what’s happening. Such people as Marinova, Kuciak, Gandzuk are not only heroes of their countries, they are heroes of journalist community of the whole world. And that’s why we must not remain aloof; we need to attract the attention of international intergovernmental and civic society organizations to these horrendous crimes. We need to seek the independent and impartial investigations with participation of international human rights monitors.
A famous author and a Nobel Laureate William Faulkner wrote, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”
*Neil Karpenko, PhD