Journalism below duress

Réka Kinga Papp: Irina, you might be from Moscow and have lived there most of your life, with occasional journeys of a few months or so exterior Russia. Your reference to Eurozine dates out of your keep in Vienna final yr. However now you might be primarily based in London and, within the present scenario, it’s possible you’ll not have the ability to relocate again into Moscow. I’m conscious it’s a painful topic, however may you inform us about what you’re going through now and the way it’s influencing your work?

Irina Borogan: It’s not simple when you end up residing overseas after spending your complete life in a single nation. For me that was Russia. I labored for Russian and Western media there, and revealed three books. The scenario in Russia had been harmful for a while, however till August final yr I had no intension of leaving. Then my accomplice, Andrei Soldatov, and I acquired quite a lot of threats and warnings from the authorities, so we determined to get out for a time.

I need to clarify that we had arrange an internet site,, which focuses on the safety companies. We had revealed plenty of investigations, together with a e book entitled The New The Aristocracy in regards to the Federal Safety Service (FSB) – that’s to say Russian counter-intelligence. It’s probably the most harmful authorities company within the nation. had a media licence and we operated accordingly. However final yr we all of the sudden realized that our media licence had been cancelled.

Andrei is the editor-in-chief of the web site, so he seemed into what had occurred. It’s very uncommon for a licence to be revoked with out discover. Usually, it’s a giant deal: governmental our bodies ship you warnings and letters indicating that you just’ve damaged the legislation or one thing of that sort. You possibly can’t simply be stripped of your licence. Andrei determined to test what was happening and found that our licence had been cancelled as a result of the bodily one that had obtained the licence was now useless. That bodily individual was in reality Andrei. Clearly, this was an indication that we needed to do one thing and now we’re each visiting fellows at King’s Faculty, London.

I’m making an attempt to hold on with my job and my work. For the reason that Covid period started a yr in the past, the way in which journalists collect info has modified: we will entry much more on-line. It’s not excellent, in fact. You continue to want to satisfy your sources and collect info personally. It’s important to meet individuals and win them over. It’s important to perceive what’s happening and be absolutely up to the mark. However in some methods, it’s getting simpler to debate delicate points through the Web. Just lately, we’ve up to date our info on the FSB and posted plenty of new details about the intelligence service. We’ve drawn on our personal sources in addition to a variety of open sources. We’re not going to cease.

Réka Kinga Papp: Hungary, Turkey and Russia are three very completely different taking part in fields. We’re not going to behave like they’re the identical. However you’re all going through some type of repression – which can be kind of overt – and plenty of administrative obstacles: whether or not it’s the withdrawal of licences by way of loopholes or the posing of financial obstacles. György Kerényi, you’ve got arrange many, very various kinds of media shops. You might have contributed to them and been very profitable. At present you might be working not as an editor however, as soon as once more, as a journalist. You say that you’re experiencing an ‘encapsulation’ which impacts your work and have remarked that journalists appear to be caught in a bubble. How have you ever sensed this? What do you make of it? How does it have an effect on your work? And is it attainable to burst out of this bubble?

György Kerényi: The Hungarian regime is way much less repressive than the Russian one and the strain comes largely from media possession. One main drawback in our occupation, and our function as journalists, is that we’re educated or socialized to steadiness completely different opinions and be neutral. However the scenario in our nation doesn’t allow neutrality. At present, what we are saying and the way in which we work must mirror a single goal: that our authoritarian leaders should go. That’s what our goal ought to be.

Alternatively, journalistic ethics name for us to not take part in political battle however to report it. We’re educated to look at a contest during which we don’t take sides. But, in our international locations, no actual competitors between political actors could be mentioned to exist. That’s the disconnection we face inside our function and in our day by day work. We ought to be taking sides, however we’re not socialized for it. I’m reminded of the scenario earlier than 1989 – though, clearly, since then new inside tensions have emerged in Hungary. Earlier than the transition, there was a repressive regime on the one hand and an oppressed society on the opposite. However during the last thirty years we’ve got been socialized for a unique type of socio-political mannequin. We took the most effective from European liberal democracies – the notion of checks and balances, guidelines – but it doesn’t work within the scenario we’ve got now.

Réka Kinga Papp: Is there a strategy to overcome this disconnection? I perceive that you just determine with colleagues who find yourself selecting sides and ‘signing up’ ­with the opposition, both by becoming a member of a political social gathering or in another method. However even when individuals don’t select a selected political stance, they find yourself positioned as ‘freedom fighters’ or ‘dissidents’ or ‘exiles’ – that are all problematic phrases. How do you overcome these labels? As I perceive it, you don’t wish to take a stance right here. Do you’ve got a private recipe for avoiding these ‘positions’?

György Kerényi: Sadly, I’ve no recipe. Over the past twenty years I’ve been editor-in-chief at a variety of various media organizations. Since 2010, when the Hungarian ruling social gathering, Fidesz, gained its landslide victory, I’ve seen plenty of journalists undergo media shops which I’ve led and I believe that, over time, they’ve deserted the essential observe of questioning all events. They know it’s best to ask the federal government, however, since you by no means get solutions from authorities, you cease sending out the questions. Or else you publish the article in actual time, two hours after questions have been despatched. Individuals working within the unbiased sector of the media operate inside one another’s opinion bubbles. They hear nothing however their very own tales. Nobody is holding up a mirror to those narratives and it’s very dangerous for our work.

Irina Borogan: It’s unhappy to listen to this, as a result of in japanese Europe the dissident motion was stronger than it was within the Soviet Union, and democracy was extra balanced from the start. There weren’t as many oligarchs exerting affect on politics. However I nonetheless imagine that international locations like Poland, Hungary and Czechia may do higher. As for Russia, plainly we’re trapped in our post-totalitarian heritage. Initially, I didn’t assume we may change something within the quick time period, however, within the late Nineteen Nineties, I turned sure that we’d. There have been so many younger individuals who rejected the Soviet expertise and so they gave the impression to be the opinion influencers.

Then, after Putin got here to energy, there was the Chechen Battle. There was the monetary disaster, individuals received poorer, and there was plenty of anger directed on the concept of democracy as a result of the general public linked it to those adverse experiences. Putin might have been appointed by President Yeltsin, however, later, individuals genuinely voted for him. Russians of voting age had grown up in a totalitarian nation and imbibed totalitarian concepts from their mother and father. This may occasionally not have occurred in direct methods – with concepts in regards to the western decadence and the evils of pop music – however they absorbed the notion that it’s a must to have somebody on the prime who will make choices for you, stripping you of any type of duty. That’s what I see now.

Réka Kinga Papp: I imagine that Ece might have a unique view of those trajectories. I perceive that you’re much less optimistic about established democracies, proper? Your expertise is commonly grandly labelled a narrative of ‘exile’. However I imagine you reject this time period or not less than discover it problematic? You might have additionally predicted that democratic establishments might not be as secure as individuals wish to imagine.

Ece Temelkuran: When Irina talked about that Andrei had been ‘proclaimed useless’, I considered my very own expertise, and the way I ended up in Zagreb. After 2016, following the tried coup in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan turned the disaster into his greatest alternative. His regime was already oppressive, however now he started to behave like a dictator. One indicator was a spate of ‘misplaced passports’ on the border. When individuals had been making an attempt to depart the nation or come into Turkey, officers at passport management would inform them their passport had disappeared. They’d take your passport away and never return it. One cause I wished to get in another country was that these confiscations had been unpredictable. You by no means knew what would occur, as a result of this wasn’t the rule of legislation, these had been impulsive, arbitrary instruments of oppression imposed by the authorities.

On one event I used to be returning to Turkey from London, and the official at passport management took my doc and checked out it, then at me, then on the passport once more, and so it went on. It took so lengthy… I believed, ‘That is it. They’re both going to arrest me or they’ll take my passport and I’ll be trapped within the nation.’ Then, abruptly, she screamed: ‘You’re Ece Temelkuran! Can we take a selfie?’ And a police officer took the image. I keep in mind half crying, half laughing. However at that second I believed, I can’t take this anymore. The worst factor isn’t understanding what’s going to occur. You could be arrested or it’s possible you’ll be requested to pose for a selfie. I noticed how a lot concern had taken over my considering and my day by day life. At one stage, many people had been going to mattress all dressed up in our pyjamas, as a result of we thought they could come for us at 5 o’clock within the morning.

About 5 and a half years in the past I went over to Zagreb for a number of days, and made a spontaneous resolution to remain. However the time I’ve spent right here looks like non-time. To me, Zagreb looks like a non-place. While you depart your individual nation, you begin to dwell on this summary state of in-betweenness. You’re not within the nation, you’re trying on the nation. You’re not an area, you may’t actually turn into an area in a brand new nation. It’s a liminal, in-between state. However then, on this in-betweenness, individuals additionally ask you what you’ve got been by way of. They need you to inform your story, your private, unique story.

In my profession as a world journalist and as a author, I’ve advised tales from all around the globe. However I’d by no means tried to inform my very own story or my nation’s story. However, in European international locations, they such as you to behave as a sufferer who has escaped the arms of the barbarians and thrown herself into the arms of the civilized world. Some Europeans appear to search out it flattering or reassuring to listen to that their continent continues to be a secure haven without spending a dime thinkers, particular person freedoms and so forth. However this forces you into the function of an exile.

Every time I’ve been talked about in public during the last 5 years, the introduction has all the time been, ‘She’s an exile from Turkey’. It’s as if this was the sexiest line of my CV. It’s simple to say the phrase ‘exile’, however it’s not simple for individuals like me to put on it. As a result of when you’re clothed in that phrase, you may by no means do away with it. As soon as an exile, all the time an exile – even when you return to your individual nation. It is a burden I don’t wish to carry. It was imposed on me by a political regime. I don’t really feel it belongs to me. I didn’t select it. So I’m making an attempt to see this little bit of my life as a part of a much bigger journey. I’ve lived in lots of international locations: Tunisia, Lebanon, France, Britain… I do know what it’s to be away from residence. However that is the primary time I’ve been compelled to be away.

In the course of the years I’ve lived in different international locations, and particularly lately, I’ve had nearly an excessive amount of time to consider what our nation is, what I’m lacking and what I’ve been preventing for. What is that this nation that makes us endure a lot? Why can we select to endure? I’ve come to assume {that a} residence nation is sort of a desk. The West is the summary entity that surrounds this desk, however these seated round it are your family members. And also you miss them, maybe greater than the nation itself. You miss the language and the consolation of not having to elucidate your jokes. However that doesn’t imply we’re victims.

Prior to now, when you requested somebody to say the primary phrase that got here into their head once you talked about ‘Russia’, they might reply Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky or Lenin, for instance. Now, within the West, it looks like there’s just one individual residing in Russia, and that’s Putin. That is unfair on Russia. Journalists who’ve moved away from oppressive regimes are represented within the western media as exiles or dissidents, however that hyperlinks our existence to dictators who don’t need to be the symbols of our international locations. Orbán, Putin and Erdoğan shouldn’t be promoted because the faces of the international locations they rule. It’s unjust to raise them to this standing. For me, now, the face of Russia is Irina and the face of Hungary is György. We should insist on this. As a result of these leaders invade an excessive amount of house. They dominate the picture of our international locations, leaving no room for others like us. I believe it ought to be highlighted that it’s not they however we who symbolize our individuals.

Réka Kinga Papp: There’s a nice literary custom related to exile, together with sure patterns which can be simple to narrate to. It’s tougher to search out similarities between your self and somebody you don’t wish to share an area with. Quite a lot of media professionals, writers and artists discover themselves displaced as a result of they wish to follow their occupation. They wish to keep it up working, in order that they select one other location. However plenty of them turn into the voices that publicly symbolize all the things that’s not of their nation or its regime, proper? As an exile, you might be presupposed to symbolize all the things that isn’t Erdoğan or Putin or Orbán. That places a burden on all the things you say. But it surely’s additionally the lifeline of a media skilled: to speak about your individual nation, to be a correspondent from someplace.

Irina Borogan: I’ve been studying literature on exiles since I used to be a baby. Actually, a yr in the past, Soldatov and I revealed a e book on political emigration entitled The Compatriots. It’s about Russian political emigrés and their difficult relationship with the Kremlin. However I nonetheless don’t really feel I’m in exile myself – perhaps as a result of I left Russia simply eight months in the past. I don’t have this unhappy feeling that I’m an emigré. I’m engaged on a brand new e book, and I nonetheless really feel fairly optimistic. I gathered my materials for the e book again in Russia, so far as I may on the time. Then I needed to do analysis exterior the nation, in archives within the US and the UK, as a result of the e book is about espionage and there are main protagonists on each side: in Russia and within the West. I really feel dangerous about what’s happening in Russia as a result of many individuals have been positioned below legal investigation and a few have been imprisoned. I really feel I ought to be taking part in Russian life greater than I can from right here.

Réka Kinga Papp: Perhaps, as Ece says, the expertise of the exile from inside is completely different from what’s seen by the skin world, or how the skin world understands it. As a result of there’s little or no heroism within the on a regular basis. In an article titled The Europeans, Enda O’Doherty cites a author who says: it’s pretty that French colleagues ask me about how I’m doing and what my hopes are for my nation, however no one ever needs to know if I manage to pay for for lunch. This a really actual drawback. While you’re confronted with these existential and never notably mental points, the attitude adjustments.

György, you might be used to crossing borders. You might have additionally labored for Rádió Pátria, the Hungarian channel of Slovakia’s public TV and radio broadcaster, and a station that’s not essentially mainstream for Hungarian audio system. I don’t know the way this suits into the scenario you described earlier: the sense of being encapsulated in a bubble. After all, Slovak media may be very completely different from Hungarian media proper now. How do you are feeling that borders and completely different organizational constructions inform your work? Or have you ever been ready to attract in your expertise with the Slovak public broadcaster to your work in Hungary?

György Kerényi: The media panorama in Slovakia may be very completely different from the Hungarian one. For instance, in Hungary promoting comes primarily from the state. I believe that is distinctive. Media oligarchs and media firms are funded from the state funds, which isn’t the case in Slovakia. As you say, I labored for the Hungarian part of the Slovak public service broadcaster. As a result of there are such a lot of Hungarian minority communities in neighbouring international locations, the dimensions of Hungarian media audiences is about the identical overseas as it’s in Hungary. And the Orbán regime takes benefit of this ‘digital nationwide unity’ with Hungarians overseas to export its patron-client political system. So minority communities exterior the nation, who’re additionally customers of Hungarian mainstream media, have gotten part of the Hungarian regime as effectively. Once I was working in Slovakia, I generally felt there was one particular filter bubble for Orbán supporters and one other for the opposition.

Réka Kinga Papp: Ece, you typically say that you’re continually being requested about your private story, whereas your skilled alternative as a author and journalist can be to inform the tales of others. How do you entry these others now that that your dominant expertise is being by yourself? In an article entitled The paper ache, which could be learn in Eurozine, you mentioned: ‘I’m what I write’. How do you method all this?

Ece Temelkuran: I trespass over the boundary by telling individuals their very own tales. Once they ask for my story, I reply with their very own story in order that they perceive that what we’re going by way of in our completely different international locations is in reality the identical. We’re witnessing the morbid signs of collapsing regimes, and the symptoms are the Putins and Netanyahus of our age.

We’re all affected by rising right-wing populism, this new type of fascism. So, I begin by telling them their very own tales. That’s the reason I wrote How one can Lose a Nation: Seven steps from democracy to dictatorship, which begins by addressing this concept of telling individuals their very own story. Earlier I additionally wrote one other e book entitled Turkey: The insane and the melancholy. I spoke about this on the London Frontline Membership lately, about Turkey, how we endure, the oppression and so forth. After I had completed, a lady within the viewers introduced her arms collectively and requested on this very compassionate voice, ‘So what can we do for you?’ And all of the sudden I felt like a child panda being adopted by an internet site. So, I mentioned, ‘You recognize what? Really, the query is, what can I do for you?’

That query and my reply impressed How one can lose a rustic. Western European international locations have this phantasm that they’re resistant to what we face in Russia, Hungary, Italy or Turkey. They assume these are loopy international locations during which something can occur. They’ve all of the solutions about why these items have occurred there and never in their very own nation. Actually, this was the case once I began writing the e book in 2016. By the point I revealed it in 2019, my predictions had been coming true. Boris Johnson was the prime minister of England. Trump continues to be a spectre haunting the White Home. In Germany and France, the political centre is barely holding. Each nation is weak to this toxic malaise of our age, this new type of fascism. But it surely’s not simple to listen to your story from a lady with an unpleasant accent in English. Individuals thought, ‘Okay, this girl imagines she’s Cassandra and she will be able to’t be taken significantly.’ However in 2021, after two years, my e book all of the sudden turned very well timed and common. Individuals realized that ‘loopy’ international locations weren’t loopy to start out with. It was this new type of fascism, which we had skilled sooner than western European international locations, that made us seem loopy.

One fascinating factor is that our international locations – Hungary, Russia and Turkey – aren’t simply accessible to a westerner. The psyche, the Zeitgeist, the political circumstances are too difficult. Whereas we ‘outsiders’ know western languages, and may entry info extra simply. For me this additionally acts as an antidote to the truth that I’m continually being pressured to inform my story, my story alone. It’s a proactive method of constant to be a author on this scenario, to not be confined to my very own story or my nation’s tales.

Irina Borogan: Isn’t this a method of discovering a brand new viewers and a brand new voice?

Ece Temelkuran: In a method. However I emigrated to a different language as effectively. I hadn’t written in English till I wrote How one can lose a rustic and, when it was out, I felt like, ‘Okay, this isn’t my e book. It’s in one other language. It feels bizarre.’ Till lately, I didn’t really feel like I owned the e book.

Irina Borogan: My scenario may be very completely different as a result of, in Russia, all my books had been all the time written in English. Soldatov and I didn’t have a writer there. Individuals had been afraid to publish books in regards to the FSB, or the Kremlin’s wars on the Web, or political emigration. So we discovered a method of publishing our books within the West. Then, a yr or so afterwards, a Russian writer would publish a translation. A translated e book doesn’t carry the identical authorized threat, so that is a method of transferring info again to your viewers at residence.

 Ece Temelkuran: That’s the unhappy half. It’s additionally very ironic. How one can lose a rustic isn’t revealed in Turkey for political causes, however the brand new e book I’ve written in English will probably be translated into my mom tongue. My e book gained’t be in my Turkish. I’ll must rewrite the interpretation once I may have written in Turkish within the first place. Issues work in curious methods.

Réka Kinga Papp: György, you had a really intense pandemic expertise. You launched a print day by day every week earlier than the primary lockdown, which mainly killed the paper, as I perceive. Now you’re working with Radio Free Europe. You’ve mentioned you like being again within the editorial room, doing the day-to-day journalism you weren’t in a position to do as an editor-in-chief.

György Kerényi: It’s good to go on sensible information, train younger colleagues and present them learn how to view the media as an industrial, political and moral actor. However I don’t assume something will change as soon as the pandemic is over. I do know Orbán’s political observe effectively and it has flourished, which is proving horrible for the group as a complete. Divisions have been strengthened, borders between completely different political and cultural camps have grown larger, taller and harder throughout the pandemic. I believe that’s the way it will go on.

Réka Kinga Papp: What sort of recommendation you’ll give to individuals beginning out in skilled journalism or in literature. What perspective would you provide them? Are they going to discover a cache of treasure? Or has the subsequent technology already been misplaced?

György Kerényi: I don’t like to speak about generational variations, however, when you learn the media idea, you understand that this actually is one other technology. I typically take into consideration the place our fault lies, how this authoritarian regime emerged, and the way the media in Hungary may have come to this. Certainly one of our errors was that we didn’t understand that, whereas we had been insisting on the watchdog operate of the media, most individuals eat media purely for leisure. Way more so than twenty or thirty years in the past. We didn’t mirror sufficient on the implications of our gatekeeper function and now we’re operating after audiences making an attempt to get the very best attainable scores.

The brand new technology of journalists has been socialized to work on this method, nevertheless. My affiliation with the media division of ELTE College resulted in 2008, however I do know that greater than half of scholars there by no means learn any severe political content material. And ELTE is the most effective college for the humanities in Hungary! The function mannequin for a journalist in the present day may be very completely different from the one I as soon as knew. It’s additionally onerous to just accept the sensation that you’re now in a minority, and that your goal of committing to human rights, checks and balances, and the rule of legislation isn’t a precept shared by the vast majority of individuals. That’s tough to dwell with.

Irina Borogan: For younger journalists in Russia, it’s each far simpler and tougher to start out a profession proper now. It’s simpler as a result of you could find plenty of info on the Web and get entry to databases. You possibly can produce an excellent investigation with out nose to nose contact with sources, which is all the time an issue. While you’re twenty, individuals don’t wish to speak to you. You may spend months or years placing effort into getting in contact with individuals who possess info. Now you don’t want to do that. You go on the Web, you pay slightly for databases in Russia, and you may entry a variety of info about individuals, their property, the place they dwell, the place they go, what they use day by day, even their financial institution accounts. The probabilities are superb. You possibly can turn into well-known inside a number of months. Alternatively, it’s additionally tougher as a result of, the world over, journalism has a lot much less cash than it had within the Nineteen Eighties or Nineteen Nineties when the media was on the rise. Monetary constraints make it more and more tough to get an project overseas or to go to a warfare zone. But that’s the place we gained our expertise, our actual expertise. However I proceed to see plenty of alternatives for youthful journalists.

Ece Temelkuran: What György mentioned resonated with me as a result of, once I received into journalism, I went by way of a really harsh apprentice-master relationship. For 3 years, they didn’t even give me a byline. I used to be non-existent. I come from a convention the place they break you, then reconstruct you. However now, to be a information individual is to be any person. Journalists are one-man exhibits. They’ve to make use of guerrilla techniques to outlive and make information. Journalism as an establishment is altering. I believe the younger technology will do it in another way and extra dedication will probably be required. And solely those that can’t dwell with out doing journalism will probably be journalists. It gained’t be a occupation, it will likely be a dedication. Going to warfare zones was essential to me as a journalist. However there was an establishment behind me. I knew that if one thing occurred, they’d come and choose me up, even when that they had to make use of a helicopter. At present, freelance journalists don’t have that assist. They work with out institutional back-up. That’s why, by way of doing journalism, guerrilla-like techniques will probably be extra distinguished sooner or later and extra dedication will probably be wanted.

I believe we’re going to see some die-hard journalists within the coming ten years. They should run for his or her viewers within the first interval, as they begin out, however then I believe they are going to be a presence in our lives – characters we’ll wish to observe in our digital sphere. This coming technology isn’t embarrassed by self-promotion. They aren’t uncomfortable about promoting stuff or being inherently enterprise individuals.

I keep in mind once I was in Tahrir Sq. in 2011 and in Gezi, Turkey, in 2013, when the rebellion was taking place, individuals received their information primarily from different individuals who had been there. They went to Twitter, they discovered the sources: actual individuals speaking from Tahrir or from Gezi. They didn’t flip to logos like The New York Occasions or CNN Worldwide. They turned to individuals. It was as if human beings had chosen human beings, not massive manufacturers. I believe this perspective will decide journalism in coming generations. And György, you might be proper: this isn’t us. It’s completely different. Journalism is evolving into one thing very fascinating.

This dialogue shaped a part of the thirty first European Assembly of Cultural Journals on 2 July 2021. 

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