The Price of the Word

At least every week, a person who works with the information, analyzes and describes the events, searches for and releases secret facts, and tells the truth is killed around the world. They have killed 27 journalists and media workers from January to August 2020. And the list draws up.

They killed 51 participants of the international media union in 2019 and 88 participants – in 2018. Around a thousand journalists were murdered during the last decade around the globe, from Mexico to Pakistan. 

In Ukraine, they also murder journalists. We have lost almost 70 of them during the years of our independence. More terrible than this number is the percentage of unsolved murders. 

Vadym Komarov, a journalist, was savagely beaten in Cherkasy on the 4th of May, 2019. He passed away after 46 days, spent in a coma. Komarov was very inconvenient for many influential people in Cherkasy. Therefore he received constant threats. They struck him in 2016 and 2017, but it didn’t stop Vadym. The only thing that actually did was a violent death. The crime remains still unsolved. Both those who ordered and those who committed it are not punished. 

The murder of the journalist in Cherkasy didn’t catch the attention of politicians or top-rated media. It didn’t provoke any public resonance or large-scale protest demonstrations. Only close relatives, friends, people, and organizations in charge of similar cases mentioned Vadym’s death in a year. Police didn’t report the results of the case investigation in half a year.

However, in Ukrainian history, there are also widely discussed murders that are still unsolved. On the 16th of September, Ukrainians mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of Georgiy Gongadze. The inquest hasn’t still named those who ordered the attack and returned a verdict to them. Moreover, Oleksiy Pukach, an ex-general of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine and charged with proxy murder, may be released.

In Ukraine, they do not solve proxy murders. Neither national recognition nor international resonance guarantee that the case will be solved. Why does law enforcement not investigate them? Because they have opportunities not to do it. Mutual responsibility and agreements within the social groups are still more effective than the supremacy of law and civil society pressure. 

A Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend were killed in February 2018. The wave of the most large-scale protest demonstrations of the recent history of the country started after that. To calm down the civilians, Slovak prime minister Robert Fico and the Cabinet resigned in March 2018.

Harassment and persecution of journalists have become the usual thing in our country. Attacks and strikes, damaged cars, spying, and threats are widespread news nowadays. The worst thing is that nobody, besides colleagues, civil society, and international organizations, helps journalists. To protect and investigate, law enforcement lacks competence at best. At worst – they become a partner in crime. 

The understanding by civil society that journalists’ job is significant and their readiness to put authority under pressure is the key way to protect journalists, the freedom of speech, and human rights. The murder of a journalist is rather an exception in Western democracies. It can be explained by sharp public reaction there and political consequences for those who are in charge. 

To remind civil society and the audience of Ukrainian media in general about the values of independent journalism and the preciousness of the truth, and the high risks of gaining and sharing secret information for community welfare, The Georgiy Gongadze Prize and Lviv Media Forum launch an informational campaign, called “The Price of the Word.” 

We urge all related to share your own stories about the importance of the truth for the development and safety of civil society, democracy, liberty of a person, and a state under the #цінаслова (thepriceoftheword) hashtag. 

“The Price of the Word” is an informational campaign that reminds the Ukrainian media audience about independent journalism values. We start the campaign on the 16th of September, mentioning the murder of Georgiy Gongadze and other murdered Ukrainian journalists in articles, media, social media, and speeches. 

Discussion “The Price of the Word. About the journalist’s mission when fighting for the truth” will take place on the 17th of September in terms of 27BookForum. The participants are Myroslava Gongadze, Vakhtang Kipiani, Zurab Alasaniia. Igor Balynskyi is the moderator. 

On the 18th of September, a commemoration of Georgy Gongadze and other murdered journalists will take place on Maidan Nezalezhnosti at 5 p.m. 

We publish a set of columns and videos during the autumn in which journalists and intellectuals dwell upon the value of truth. 

We encourage you to join the #цінаcлова (thepriceoftheword) campaign and choose the truth daily. But the truth and the word have their own price, which is too high sometimes. And we’d better remember it. 

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