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Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Nikolov

Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Nikolov

Fellows in the class of 2024 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University have chosen Ukrainian investigative journalist Yuriy Nikolov for this year’s Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism.

The Nieman Fellows recognized Nikolov for showing that independent watchdog journalism for the public good is possible even in a country at war, where media outlets operate under tight restrictions and where reporting on government corruption is particularly sensitive.

In making their selection, the Nieman Fellows said: “Nikolov’s high-profile corruption investigations into alleged graft in the Ukrainian military shine a light on the importance of watchdog reporting even in the most dire of circumstances. At great personal and reputational risk, Nikolov’s reporting has asked for accountability in the use of public funds, even while his country continues to fight Russia’s invasion.”

A co-founder of the investigative media project Nashi Groshi (“Our Money”), Nikolov reported on scandals involving alleged corruption in the procurement of goods for Ukraine’s war effort in 2023. His reporting has led to a shake-up of top officials in the defense ministry.

In early 2024, Nikolov reported an attempt to intimidate him, as unknown men visited the home where he lives with his mother and banged on his door calling him a “traitor” and “draft dodger” in reference to his work exposing corruption during the war. Nikolov has also faced harassment from anonymous government supporters online who question not only his reporting but his loyalty to Ukraine.

When asked about his reporting on alleged graft in the military, Nikolov has defended himself against claims that he is hurting the war effort saying: “I want us to have more air defenses… If money is being stolen, we won’t get the rockets.”

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has created unprecedented challenges for Ukrainian journalists. Media organizations have had to deal with security concerns, severe economic difficulties and staffing issues caused by reporters being drafted into the military or leaving the country to find safety abroad. Despite these problems, Ukrainian reporters have played a crucial role in keeping audiences in Ukraine and abroad informed about their country’s efforts to defend itself against the Russian invasion.

Nikolov began his journalistic career in the city of Sumy in 1999 and has been based in Kyiv since 2004. In addition to Nashi Groshi, the investigative project he co-founded in 2011, Nikolov’s work has featured in prominent Ukrainian publications, such as Dzerkalo Tyzhnya and Ukrayinska Pravda.

Nashi Groshi is a member of the Global Investigative Journalism Network and focuses on exposing corruption in state procurement. Its reporting has resulted in more than 70 cancelled tender procedures, amounting to $1.2 billion in government savings. The organization produces a weekly TV program and manages a network of over 200 investigative journalists. The project has received more than 10 national and international awards.

This year’s class of 24 Nieman Fellows from around the world independently nominated and selected Nikolov from a pool of journalists who are courageously working under difficult circumstances. The Nieman Fellows will honor Nikolov and his work during a ceremony this spring.

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, promotes innovation and elevates the standards of the profession. More than 1,700 journalists from 100 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation also publishes Nieman Reports, a website and print magazine covering thought leadership in journalism; Nieman Journalism Lab, a website reporting on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website showcasing exceptional narrative journalism and nonfiction storytelling.

Comments from 2024 Lyons Award winner Yuriy Nikolov