Sevgil Musaieva, Ukraine

International Press Freedom Awards

CPJ is honored to present its 2022 International Press Freedom Award to Ukrainian journalist Sevgil Musaieva.

Sevgil Musaieva is editor-in-chief of Ukrainska Pravda, Ukraine’s leading independent online newspaper covering politics, economics, and culture – and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.   

Ukrainska Pravda

After Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Musaieva mobilized her team to deliver truthful and unbiased reporting to their audiences, which increased manyfold in the first days and weeks of the war. She launched the English-language version of the outlet – whose name means “Ukrainian Truth” – to respond to international demand for factual and timely information on and from Ukraine.    

Musaieva recently spoke with CPJ about her team’s experience reporting on the war, emphasizing that they were trying to ensure that the subjects of their reporting “will not be just statistics.”

Before joining Ukrainska Pravda, Musaieva served as a business reporter for the newspaper Delo (Happenings), the weekly Vlast Deneg (Power Money), and Forbes Ukraine, where she covered corruption in the oil and gas industries, among other topics. She also co-authored a book on Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev. Musaieva is a member of the Crimean Tatars, an ethnic group facing persecution within Russian-occupied Crimea.

Musaieva has worked relentlessly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Under her leadership, Ukrainska Pravda’s journalists have continued their reporting efforts despite Russia’s declared ban on the publication and the dangers of frontline reporting in an active war. In June 2022, she and a colleague received death threats following the publication of an investigative report.

Ukrainska Pravda

Two of Ukrainska Pravda’s previous chief editors, Pavel Sheremet and Georgy Gongadze, have been murdered in relation to their work.

Musaieva was a 2019 Harvard University Nieman Fellow and is a six-time winner of the Presszvanie prize for economic journalism in Ukraine. She also received the Anthony Moskalenko Memorial Award for her contribution to the development of Ukrainian journalism, and Time magazine featured her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022. 

In honoring Musaieva with an award, CPJ highlights the vital role journalists play in reporting on active conflicts, humanitarian crises, and war crimes at great personal risk to themselves and their teams. In selecting Musaieva, a Crimean Tatar whose ethnic group faces persecution in Russian-occupied Crimea, CPJ is also drawing attention to the ongoing situation there, where Russia has jailed independent journalists and shuttered critical media outlets since 2014. 

The text of Sevgil Musaievas acceptance speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:

Good evening.

I would like to read an entry from my diary. 

March 17, Day 22 of the war: 

“We should get your friend dressed,” I was told. “Clean clothes, socks and underwear are needed. You can hand everything over in the morning.” 

Next day: “A huge Patagonia bag was brought from the car… It took me a long time to open it. I felt like I was invading Brent’s personal space, which he had always been known to protect. 

“After taking a deep breath, I managed to pull on the zipper.

“The clothes inside smelled of laundry and this scent hit me immediately. I picked out a brown T-shirt, brown trousers, and matching socks too. And then I found a warm woolen shirt. The shirt would keep him warmer. I suddenly caught myself thinking: God, why does it matter? I’m taking these things to the morgue”.

That was the first time I had written anything in the four days since my friend and colleague Brent Renaud was killed near Kyiv. 

Are there words to convey the tragedy and pain inflicted on my country?  

Yes, they are simple.The people in the liberated villages and towns, whom I met shortly after the arrival of the Ukrainian troops, speak a special language. It is like a confession without fear. I felt ashamed to weep when I heard them speak.  I cried later,  listening to the tape recordings I made.

Revisiting the residents over time, I noticed their language had changed. Stories had become legends. Grief fades because life wins out.

Before I left Kyiv, our office lost power. For an hour we tried unsuccessfully to connect our satellite dish to a generator. I gave up and stepped out onto the balcony. The gymnastics school across the street had power. Dozens of little girls were exercising with hoops and ribbons. I rejoiced at this vision from another life.

War is about choices. You often ask yourself whether you are more of a Ukrainian or a journalist. 

Our reporter, Eldar, told  the readers of Ukrainska Pravda why he became a soldier: “I am not joining the army because of guilt or duty. It’s about our dignity, which Ukrainians have been standing upon for centuries. I have no other country and can never have any.”

In the nine months of war, 42 journalists have died. Among them are those who went off to fight and those who told the truth about this war. Among them are my friends.

“I want to take a photo that would stop the war,” wrote Maksim Levin, who was shot dead by the Russian military on 13 March – the same day my dear friend Brent Renaud died.

And I believe Maksim could have taken it.

When a journalist dies, their untold stories, their unwritten books, their unreleased films, their untold truth – all die with them.

And all the more you want to do whatever you can to keep that truth alive. And your friends are alive in your work.  

Truth survives when there is someone to fight for it. Therefore, there will be words to stop this war as well.