Nieman Fellows in the class of 2018 at Harvard University have selected Elena Milashina for the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. Milashina was chosen for her groundbreaking and persistent investigative reporting on human rights abuses in Russia while enduring threats from powerful figures. She was also chosen as a representative of independent Russian journalists who continue to work in the face of hostility and persecution from the nation’s leaders, agencies and their associates.
Milashina is a veteran investigative reporter for Novaya Gazeta, the most prominent of Russia’s independent newspapers. She is best known for stories in 2017 in which she and a colleague reported that hundreds of gay men had been detained and tortured by officials in Chechnya as part of an anti-homosexual purge, and some were even killed by order of the authorities. International news organizations published reports following up on the original stories. Officials and religious leaders in Chechnya made death threats against Milashina and her colleagues. In recent years, six journalists from Novaya Gazeta have been murdered.
After the killing of her colleague Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, Milashina became the most well-known journalist reporting on grave rights abuses in Chechnya, a region of Russia that has fought two wars with the central state and where corruption is common. She investigates enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, torture and the persecution of relatives of alleged insurgents in Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus. She has also written notable stories on women’s rights in the region.
Furthermore, her reporting has played a critical role in the independent investigation into the murder of Chechen human rights defender Natalia Estemirova.
Her stories have attracted international attention to human rights abuses and violence in Chechnya, but have also resulted in her receiving death threats from Chechen authorities.
Milashina has also investigated the catastrophe of the Kursk submarine and hostage crises in Moscow and Beslan. She has documented atrocities committed by the military on both sides of the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict and has advocated for an end to impunity for crimes committed.
“Elena Milashina reminds us why we became journalists. Her work and her persistence are important and inspirational at a time when reporters are being attacked by governments around the world, from the United States to Turkey to China,” said the Nieman Fellows in the class of 2018. “Milashina and her colleagues hold the powerful to account, and they do it despite the very real threats of death, imprisonment and public scorn.”
The Lyons Award will be presented in early 2018 to Milashina at Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation in Cambridge, Mass.
In the process of determining the Lyons Award recipient, the Nieman Fellows of the class of 2018 discussed a wide range of worthwhile reporting by journalists around the globe. They would like to give special mention to the work of Khadija Ismayilova of Azerbaijan; Abraham Jiménez Enoa, Carlos Manuel Álvarez and Carla Gloria Colomé of Cuba; and Anas Aremeyaw Anas of Ghana.
Milashina was selected for the Louis M. Lyons Award by the 24 members of the current Nieman class, which includes journalists from Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Germany, India, Kenya, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Read more about Milashina’s work in “How Independent Russian Newsrooms Keep Reporting” in Nieman Reports.
The Nieman class of 1964 established the Louis M. Lyons Award in honor of the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. Lyons was a forceful advocate for freedom of the press. While he was curator of the Nieman Foundation, he broke new ground by diversifying the class of fellows to include women, minorities and international fellows. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,500 accomplished and promising journalists from 96 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that covers thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.