Is it worth it? Is an article about the investigative journalist Leonora Aliu´s answer why we need independent and professional journalism, and why cross border journalism will help the struggle for independent and free media in non-democratic societies. In April 2018 Leonora, together with the investigative journalists Besnik Boletini and Leonida Molliqaj partook in the Swedish GRÄV conference as part of the Swedish Institutes visitors program in Sweden and the annual conference GRÄV. GRÄV is hosted by the Swedish Association of Investigative Journalists. Their visit offered both insights and inspiration, and the aim was to share experiences and deepening their international networks within the investigative journalists’ community.
By Leonora Aliu
I do not believe that there is a journalist that has not asked him or herself at least once in their carrier the one question: “Is it worth it?”
But most of us journalists, do not really know the answer to this question.
Sometimes we need others to tell us if it is worth it or not. Most of the time, the answer must come from our audience, or citizen who benefit from the stories we tell.
But is very rare that journalist themselves or their colleagues actually encourage each other, because they know all the obstacles that journalists face in their everyday work.
Different from many of us, Khadija Ismayilova, strongly believes that risking everything, even your own life, in order to tell a story: “Is always worth it”.
"Yes. It is worth it”. This is what she said when she was asked during a presentation she had at the GRÄV Seminar of Investigative Journalism, that was held in Sweden earlier this year, and imagine, she was not giving this answer sitting on a chair next to a fancy table on a very glamorous decorated stage. No. She was sitting in her apartment and speaking through a tiny webcam in her country that she cannot leave because of her investigation.
Ismayilova is an Azerbaijaniinvestigative journalist and radio host who is currently working for the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe. She is a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
Four years ago, she was arrested on the charges of inciting a person to attempt suicide, a charge widely criticized by human rights organizations as false.
On September 1, 2015, Ismayilova was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison under charges of embezzlement and tax evasion.
After a lot of struggle and after a worldwide campaign called “Free Khadija”, she was set free.
Cross border journalism as the way out
There are some principles that, if followed, can lead to good with journalism when investigating major acts of corruption and crime.
One of them is to think outside the countries we work.
Collaborating with media outside the country, and with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, gave Khadija Ismayilova the opportunity to access information she would never get access to as a local journalist.
Being able to listen to Khadija Imayilova at GRÄV, made me think again about ways to create a better environment for investigative journalism in Kosovo as well.
Despite the fact that Kosovo is not a country under dictatorship, there is always space for encouragement from colleagues that are working in an environment with less freedom that ours.
In the 2017 Press Freedom Index by media watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders (RWB) Kosovo was ranged in the 82nd place, of 180 countries.
Comparing the assessment with 2015, the country gained eight ranks. Freedom House, another organization observing freedom of the press around the globe, views the Kosovar media landscape as "partly free".
2017 was known as a violent year against journalists in Kosovo. A released report from the Association of Journalists in Kosovo: “Media Freedom and Journalists Safety,” revealed that from January up to 20th of November, the date the report was released, 24 cases of threats and attacks against journalists have been registered. This is already a substantial increase from the 18 cases that were reported to the police and the prosecutor during 2016. Most of the cases are against investigative journalists.
The global climate of the media has worsened. Kosovo is not excluded in this regard.
According to Article 19 in the Freedom of Expression report, released on November 30th, 2017, the media worldwide has plunged to its worst levels since 2000. In Kosovo in recent years, the environment for journalists has also been strained.
The situation for journalists always depends on the conditions in which they work and the political environment. Cases like Ismayilova’s are the best example that makes us think that there are more difficult situations than ours. And sometimes when it is too hard to deal with the obstacles on our own, we have to look beyond our own countries and beyond the physical boundaries. We have to look for societies that, although they are different, face the same problems in order to together find an easier solution for our societies and to make it always “worth it”.