Evgeny Lebedev

Voices in Danger: Why we must defend journalists risking their lives

The Independent Wednesday 14 October 2015

Introducing Voices in Danger, a platform dedicated to telling the stories of local journalists around the world killed, kidnapped, jailed or threatened just for doing their jobs

People ask me why I invest in newspapers. Aren’t there other ways of getting a better return? Technology? Property? Pork belly futures?

The answer is simple. Journalism. That crucial pillar of democracy that holds the powerful to account and gives voice to the people whose lives they affect.

My father Alexander has suffered personally for the journalism of his campaigning newspaper in Russia, Novaya Gazeta.

The legal campaigns and threats of violence against him and our family over the years habitually ebb and flow according to who his reporters at the paper have been exposing for corruption, violence and other wrongdoing.

But his suffering is nothing next to the risks his staff are taking. Everyone rightly remembers the murder of Novaya Gazeta’s brilliant reporterAnna Politkovskaya,murdered at her block of flats in Moscow after running a series of exposés of Russian atrocities in Chechnya.

But there have been others, too. In fact, the paper has had five staff killed, includingthe shocking double murder in a Moscow streetof our journalist Anastasia Baburova andthe lawyer, Stanislav Markelov.

Killed in reprisals for telling the truth. Killed as warnings to others not to follow their path. Killed to extinguish the flame of independent journalism in Russia.

It was inspired by these brave people, and their families, that we decided to launch Voices in Danger: a platform dedicated to telling the stories of local journalists around the world killed, kidnapped, jailed or threatened just for doing their jobs.

For, while the deaths and kidnappings of western reporters and cameramen working for big media companies are rightly given global coverage, the stories of local journalists doing crucial work for regional news media rarely make even a news-in-brief.

Since then, we have interviewed the families of journalists who have disappeared, heard the heartbreak of colleagues of the fallen, and, of course, given voice to the reporters themselves to talk about their painful stories, sometimes of torture, rape, or threats to them and their families. Often, they are not easy to read. Stories of abuse rarely are. But without fail, they contain something else: courage, determination to continue reporting and – most importantly – hope that their work will change their countries for the better.

Voices in Danger today

30 journalists killed in the first six months of 2015

211 imprisoned in 2014

456 exiled since 2008.

And they are right to be hopeful. Only good reporters – with their trustworthy coverage of events and independent investigatory skills – can give people the power of knowing how their leaders and other powerful members of society are really behaving. And from that knowledge can come the pressure, and the power to change.

I hope you will read their stories here at Voices in Danger, and continue reading them as we tell more.

But I hope, too, that you will share them through social media around the world. Journalists need the biggest audience possible for their messages to do their work, bringing pressure to bear against the wrongdoing they expose.

We have a duty to help them.