Roman Anin Accepts the Knight International Journalism Award
I am very proud to accept the Knight International Journalism Award. It is also a great honor to stand here in front of some of the best journalists and media professionals in the world.
This is not only my award. I am a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, or the OCCRP. It’s an exceptional media network uniting dozens of journalist worldwide.
As organized crime becomes more international, journalists need to unite in their efforts to cover it.
The Magnitsky affair is a perfect example of this type of international media cooperation in action. We investigated one of the most insolent crimes committed in Russia in decades: the assassination of Sergey Magnitsky and the theft of a billion dollars of taxes from the Russian treasury.
Magnitsky was detained and accused of tax evasion when he reported the theft. He died in prison in 2009 at the age 37.
Our investigation showed that the extent of the fraud was even bigger than we expected. The fallout from our work continues. In September, officials in New York announced that they were freezing luxury apartments allegedly bought with millions stolen from the Russian budget.
I also would like to share this award with the friends of Sergey Magnitsky. These people have been investigating the “Magnitsky affair” for years. They gave up their professions, their daily lives, to bring justice to Sergey.
And, of course, this award belongs to Sergey, the man who sacrificed his life for the truth. The man who refused to betray his conscience. He could have saved himself just by telling a lie. He never did and that is why he was killed in prison.
In this sense, Magnitsky reminds me of my colleagues at Novaya Gazeta who have been killed during the past 10 years: Anna Politkovskaya, Yuri Shekochikhin, Igor Domnikov and Anastasya Baburova. Their profession was not reporting. Their profession was telling the truth. I would even say fighting for the truth. Politkovskaya covered human rights abuses in the Northern Caucasus. Shekochikhin investigated corruption by the secret services and high-ranking officials. Domnikov wrote stories about corrupt regional authorities. And Baburova, who was just 25 when she was killed, investigated the crimes of neo-Nazis. Their example and their fate demonstrate that in Russia, an honest journalist or even a brave person like Sergey Magnitsky can’t tell the truth without risking his life.
People like Politkovskaya and Magnitsky inspire every honest journalist in Russia. By sacrificing their lives, they changed millions of lives. They changed my life. I remember very well the day I decided to become an investigative reporter.
I used to be a professional soccer player. For many reasons I had to quit my career, but still felt the need to remain inside soccer. That is why I decided to become a sports reporter at Novaya Gazeta. In October 2006, I went to Yaroslavl, a small city not far from Moscow, to cover a soccer game. Afterwards, I was playing billiards when a colleague called and told me the news: Anna Politkovskaya had been gunned down in front of her flat.
Until that moment, stories about assassinations of journalists seemed like they were from another world. And here it happened to someone I met every day in the corridors of Novaya Gazeta.
I’m not the only one who has been changed by the deaths of Politkovskaya and Magnitsky. In Moscow and in the regions, I meet more and more people who want to be like them. I believe that this is proof of the theory that truth is the greatest revenge. Once you betray the truth, you can be sure it will be avenged.
At Novaya Gazeta, we have an informal motto: “The truth wants to be known." If we remain true to this motto, honest journalism will never die, despite the death of its best representatives.