NOISE AND REPORTING
The crisis in Crimea has triggered a state of high dudgeon among the political classes here in Washington. Many seem to blame a perceived “weakness” on the part of President Obama for Vladimir Putin’s aggressive maneuvers in Ukraine. At the Pulitzer Center, we support “boots-on-the-ground” journalism as the best antidote to noisy but often uninformed commentary. Grantees Dimiter Kenarov and Boryana Katsarova are in Crimea providing a nuanced look at the deeper roots of the crisis.
“For many Russian-speakers in Crimea, Russia may not be necessarily a fatherland they dearly love, as much as a sugar daddy they desperately need — one that provides cheap gas, endless streams of money to prop up the dilapidated, energy-inefficient economy, and one that keeps the prices of community services like phone, water, and electricity at least somewhat affordable,” writes Dimiter in a dispatch for Foreign Policy. “For all the talk of minority rights and Crimean autonomy, in interviews, many of the residents here are just as quick to change the subject to poverty and their own dire situations, to which they feel ‘the West’ — often conflating both western Ukraine and Western Europe — can provide no answers.”
Reporting from Crimea hasn’t been easy. At the border Dimiter and Boryana were stopped by Russian troops and non-uniformed “irregulars” who relieved them of their body armor, helmets and other safety equipment. A few days later, after witnessing Russian soldiers ransacking equipment from foreign television reporters, they were roughed up by the soldiers and masked gunmen who took their cell phones and cameras at gunpoint.
“We are both a little shaken, but feeling OK now. Boryana has a second camera and I just bought a new phone,” Dimiter told us. “What seems very worrying is that attacks on foreign journalists are becoming more and more frequent. There seem to be absolutely no rules here.”
JOURNALISTS IN JEOPARDY
Government-sanctioned attacks on journalists are not, unfortunately, a rarity. Reuters journalist and Pulitzer Center board member David Rohde tells the PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown that at least 211 journalists are currently imprisoned—a 50 percent increase over the last five years.
“This is just people in power silencing journalists who are writing stories that hold them accountable,” said David, who in 2008 was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan and held for seven months in Pakistan before he managed to escape.
THE LAST CASE OF POLIO
There have been no reported cases of polio in India since January 2011—a clean bill of health for more than three years. Later this year the World Health Organization will officially remove India from its list of polio-endemic countries. Only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria remain on the list.
This is a remarkable achievement for India, and as Pulitzer Center grantee Esha Chhabra writes in The New York Times, India is trying to turn this success into a blueprint that can be used in its less successful battles against measles, rubella hepatitis B, TB and the like. Esha’s reporting project is part of the Pulitzer Center’s long-term commitment to in-depth, solutions-oriented journalism on global health issues.
Until next week,
Dmitry Chizhevsky was not an LGBT activist—he never went to rallies or protests. On November 3, 2013, he came to a Rainbow Coffee party in central Saint Petersburg to meet other young gays, lesbians and friendly heterosexuals for an informal community meeting. As he was leaving, he saw two men with covered faces arguing with a young activist at the entrance. Then he felt a sharp pain in the eye and heard shots.
A few hours later in the hospital he underwent his first of three surgeries. Yet doctors were not able to save his vision in his left eye.
For Russian LGBT groups this attack was a wake-up call, as it wasn’t the usual egg-throwing by religious zealots at a rally, and, moreover, this community meeting was not advertised. Some are calling it the beginning of the pogroms.
The meeting itself was held at LaSky, an NGO offering HIV counseling and support for gay men. Similarly to other LGBT-related NGOs the group regularly receives hate mail and threats. Just before the attack another LGBT support group had a fire cracker thrown into its office, as well as the word “faggot” scrawled over the door. Online in social media, there’s a number of anti-gay groups regularly posting personal information about activists, as well as threats and even plans for next attacks.
In a statement LaSky says the attack was a “result of escalation of homophobic climate in the city.”
“This attack aimed at the office of organization for prevention of HIV and STDs is an indication that pogrom-makers progressed from attacking activists during street rallies to attacks on closed private social events.”
In Russia LGBT activists are no strangers to violence and hatred; it is a simple fact of life. Yet until this incident repercussions appeared to be random and not as well thought-out. Following the attack Chizhevsky writes in his blog: “The blame for what happened to my eye lies not with those who attacked me but with every politician who has supported and stirred the homophobic hysteria in recent months. If you had treated citizens like human beings, if you had not stuffed the heads of these guys with your hatred, none of this would have happened.”
Read the rest of Pulitzer Center grantee Misha Friedman’s article and view a slideshow about LGBT rights in Russia.
To learn more about homophobia around the globe, read Pulitzer Center grantee Daniella Zalcman’s reporting from Uganda and Pulitzer Center grantee Micah Fink’s reporting from Jamaica.
Beatrice and Patriot are two survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The Interahamwe militia killed her husband and her small child in Nyamata. Since then she can no longer hear the children crying.
Patriot lost his whole family in the violence of those months. Now his girlfriend is Hutu, a sign of the reconciliation process underway in the country.
To read the full article written by Pulitzer Center grantee Tomaso Clavarino (in Italian), go to East.eu. To see Tomaso’s Pulitzer Center-supported project “Rwanda: We Are the Past” click here.