CPJ is honored to present its 2022 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, for extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom, to Russian editor Galina Timchenko.
Galina Timchenko is the CEO and publisher of Meduza, a popular Russian news website she founded in 2014 together with other exiled Russian journalists.
Galina is no stranger to earning to Russian authorities’ ire. In March 2014, she was suddenly fired as editor-in-chief of Lenta.ru, a widely read independent news website in Russia, and replaced with an openly nationalistic Kremlin supporter. There was no explanation offered for her firing, but shortly before, Lenta.ru had been admonished for publishing an interview that contained a link to a statement made by a Ukrainian politician whom Russia had deemed a criminal.
In the aftermath of her firing, 39 Lenta.ru staff members left the outlet in protest. Timchenko and many of her former colleagues fled to Riga, Latvia, and founded Meduza to continue their vital reporting on Russia from the relative safety of exile.
In April 2021, Russian authorities labeled Meduza as a so-called “foreign agent,” leading it to lose 38 percent of its revenue due to sponsor flight.
In March 2022, Timchenko spoke with CPJ about calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine a “war,” working in exile, and the legal, financial, and logistical roadblocks to covering the invasion.
“We’re just doing our job without any fear to be blocked, because – okay, they [Russia] could list us as an extremist organization, or terrorists. Or they could charge us with state treason,” she said. “I’m sorry to use these words, but we don’t give a damn.”
Honoring Timchenko with the 2022 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award for extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom offers a powerful recognition of journalism as a vital contributor towards peace.
The text of Galina Timchenko’s acceptance speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:
I’d like to express how grateful I am. This all feels so strange, so odd. I am a Russian journalist receiving this award at a time when Russian missiles are hitting peaceful Ukrainian cities, when the whole world expects nothing but aggression from Russia.
And that’s why this award is so precious to me and to all of the Meduza team. This award gives me a feeling that journalism and freedom of the press are still our common values and something we can still hope for in the future.
First of all, I want to thank my entire team: our reporters, editors, photojournalists, developers. Nothing would have happened without their dedication and bravery to tell the truth, to stand for our beliefs.
I’d like to say how happy I am to see my co-founder, my best friend, my partner in crime – the editor-in-chief of Meduza, Ivan Kolpakov. I cried a river on your shoulder over all these years–you should probably send me a bill for all the shirts I’ve ruined. Your courage, your professionalism, your kindness have always inspired me and (I hope) made me a better person.
I want to express my deepest respect to my Ukrainian colleagues who are fighting for the existence of their homeland in the face of war and death. They are an example for us, for Meduza and for many other independent journalists all over the world.
A year ago, Meduza was labeled as a foreign agent by the Russian government. As a result, we’ve lost almost everything. Our business model was destroyed. We started a crowdfunding campaign that turned out to be very successful. We were literally saved by our readers–most of them from Russia.
When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, Western sanctions destroyed our ability to get donations from Russia. But this time our colleagues from European and American media organizations spread the word among their international readers that Meduza needs support. This time it was our fellow journalists who saved us. We value your support more than we can express and will always remember how you were there when we needed it the most.
Meduza was blocked in Russia soon after the war began. However, we can reach out to millions of Russian readers who need the truth now more than ever. Our duty, our mission stays the same: to provide independent objective information to our readers and not to leave them alone at the darkest hour.
Finally I’d like to paraphrase an old man who was brave enough to defend his country during World War II: “Victory is not final. Defeat is not a failure. It’s all about the courage to continue.“ And we will continue. I promise.