Oleksiy Matsuka accepts the 2014 International Press Freedom Award

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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Wednesday, December 10, 2014
On December 3, CJFE presented the 2014 International Press Freedom Award to Ukrainian investigative journalist Oleksiy Matsuka at the 2014 CJFE Gala: A Night to Honour Courageous Reporting. Watch the entirety of Matsuka's speech below, or, read the full transcript underneath the video. For more highlights from this year's Gala, see The best moments from the 2014 CJFE Gala.

TRANSCRIPT

Thank you very much. I just want to welcome you all here. I’m going to say something short in English: I am grateful to be here and I myself am a native of Donetsk and with the conflict in my region, war is very close to my heart. Everybody knows about the conflict in Ukraine but not everyone knows what it’s really about. This war means a struggle for life or death, and not just life or death in the physical form, but a struggle for dignified life in a civil society that is not possible without freedom of speech. And that very freedom of speech means the development of the democratic process that is missing in the occupied territory of Ukraine by Russian-backed troops. Ukrainians all over the world are very grateful that all civilized countries, like Canada, have united in the struggle against Russian aggression. Our journalists who are working right now on the front lines and under the government in the occupied territories are those carriers of the democratic process which needs to be established in those regions. So, I accept this International Press Freedom Award on behalf of all my colleagues: journalists who risk their lives every day to bring the stories to the public. And I want to give you some details about Donbass region and Alex will help me with the translation, thanks. In Russian, with English translation: What we saw in this little piece is a very small part of what really is going on there, it doesn’t really reveal the truth about the situation and where we are now, because everything there is much more difficult; much harder than you can imagine in the space of six minutes. The problem is that we as journalists are actually in Europe now, because we’re at the front of a completely new type of war. In the past it all seemed to be pretty simple, we would look into the essence of corruption for example. But now, when we look at the kinds of things that are going on in our country and the corruption there, Russia’s propaganda is actually taking advantage of that and exploiting it to attack the values that the new Ukraine is trying to push forward. So we’re now in a new stage, we have new challenges that Putin’s regime is putting before us. And the choice for us now is to decide, in a sense, are we citizens of this new country or are we journalists who are trying to cover and tell the truth? And of course we choose to tell the truth and we choose to be journalists even if it sometimes disturbs our new government. And because of that and because of the war that’s going on, we as journalists are in the most vulnerable situation. Because we have enemies just as much amongst the separatists as we do in the ranks of the government. Of course this doesn’t make our work any easier, in fact it makes it much more difficult. Especially when we end up being right in the area where the conflict is going on. For that reason our greatest weapons are our colleagues: colleagues/journalists in countries that border Ukraine, but also in countries far away like Canada. And that’s only one of the challenges, of course there are many others. You have to understand, for example, that Ukrainian journalists cannot work in the occupied territories right now. Essentially, they have announced that they are going to be annihilating Ukrainian journalists on the territory that is controlled by these Russian-backed separatists. So even if you just simply want to go there and report news without favouring the Ukrainian or any of the sides, you could be killed just by virtue of being a Ukrainian journalist. I think that events like this, they help journalists in the line of fire over there to feel stronger. It’s a signal to those people who are in the war situation: they can see your faces, they can see your eyes and they can see that you are with them. And I think that if we stay united, we can affect the situation. And for this, thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.

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