We Know the Truth About the War in Ukraine Because of Journalists

Editor’s note: Sevgil Musaieva, the editor in chief of independent Ukrainian news outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, appeared at the TIME100 Summit in New York City on Tuesday, June 7. These are her comments, as they appear in their entirety.

It’s the year 2000. I’m thirteen years old. Growing up in Crimea (the southernmost part of Ukraine), I dream about being a journalist.

At that time, Ukraine was under total censorship. Georhiy Geongadze, a Ukrainian journalist aged just 31 years old is banned from working on TV.

And for this reason—in April of 2000, he and a colleague decided to create an online publication named Ukrayinska Pravda. Pravda means Truth. “Giving the new meaning to old concepts,” is how Gongadze explained the name.

Russian newspapers have a reputation for being unbiased. PravdaSince decades, this paper has been the principal source of official propaganda. That the paper calls itself Truth must be understood in the Orwellian sense of the word—truth is a lie, peace is war, slavery is freedom.

Gongadze’s publication, Ukrayinska Pravda,wurde gegründet, um diesem Wort eine non-propaganda Bedeutung zu geben. It is to make Truth again true.

Six months later, he died. The “Gongadze case” led to accusations against the authorities and protests, which ended with the Orange Revolution in 2004. Gongadze with the journalists at Ukrayinska Pravda helped push forward Ukraine’s democratic development, making freedom of speech an essential value.

Gongadze’s story is etched in my heart. Writing is a weapon. Truth is also a weapon.

Fourteen years later, in 2014, fate will bring us together—me and Ukrayinska PravdaGongadze’s publication, where I’m now chief editor

We will meet at a terrible time—a few months after the Revolution of Dignity, the occupation of Crimea by Russia, the beginning of the war in the East. Ukraine has been working to reform and combat corruption. While democracy won Ukraine 2014, it’s still fragile. Too many problems remain.

All these horrible events turned out to be preparations for the crucial battle for our right for this country’s existence, which started for us in the early morning of February 24, 2022.

I’m often asked about the conflict in Ukraine today. There are three ways I can answer that question.

It’s a war for world future, its ability to unite.

This is a decolonization war, as Ukraine fights for its right to exist.

For me as a journalist it’s also a battle of lies and truth. This is the war to not call a spade “a spade”.

Journalists allowed the public to see the truth about Bucha and Borodyanka. Russian troops killed hundreds of civilians. The Kremlin claims that the photos of these civilians are fakes and continues to accuse Ukraine and West. We know the truth.

Bucha saw the Russians kill the 70-year old unarmed father of my friend. My Harvard classmate, Brent Renaud (documentarian), was killed in Irpen while he was there making a TIME Studios documentary about the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

The war in Ukraine has presented journalists with incredible difficulties. They must survive and tell the truth. Three months later, 32 journalists were killed in Ukraine. Nine of these deaths occurred in the line-of-duty.

The other challenge is to not cause damage. Human life is the ultimate measure of how costly it is to make a report on a war.

Two weeks ago I set up an interview with the victim of Russian military sexual violence. She and I talked long enough that she demanded that I stop publishing the story. Instead she wanted to know if I could help her access medical abortion drugs. She asked me to assist her as I was a human being. I couldn’t publish an interview because I wasn’t allowed to.

Sometimes it is best to keep silent. Sometimes, however, you may need to speak up.

In those days of intense fighting close to Kyiv Ukrayinska PravdaThe names of Russian soldiers who were fighting in Ukraine, at a moment when they lived only a few miles from us and our families, was published. It was dangerous. Yes. Did it matter? Was it important?

Journalists are subject to grief and death when covering wars. It is more difficult for war to reveal the truth and make it easier to understand. You can lose it in the tragedy and the statistics.

Under such circumstances, you will value the chance to tell truth, tell the story about a loved one who has lost their family or miraculously survived. This work is what makes sure that victims’ stories are told. The story of Ukraine has been told.

This knowledge gives us the strength we need to work—despite the sirens sounding every day and the horror of the war in which my country has been living for four months now.

In March, TIME published a cover emblazoned with the phrase “Life Will Overcome Death and Light —Darkness,” set against a background of the Ukrainian flag.

Ich möchte noch one sentence hinzufügen.

The light of life can defeat the darkness, and death will be defeated by it. The truth of Ukraine will defeat all lies. No matter how tough this fight is.


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