You won our Reporter:innnen-Preis for your investigative portal Slidstvo.info, which records war crimes in Ukraine and before that corruption. What research/story from the last few years are you most proud of?
There are few stories. But I’m really happy that we have published the documentary “Two tractors”. The story is about two farmers whose tractors were stolen one night. For ten years they have been trying to find the truth about these crimes and working very hard on it. This is the story about small corruption which is destroying the lives of regular people. It’s not the classic investigation we usually do (about big crimes, offshore schemes), but I like this story about brave humans.
You were present at the award ceremony for the Reporter:innen-Preis. What struck you when you looked at your German colleagues?
For me German journalists look like a pretty strong community of professional people. It feels that journalism in your country has roots, traditions and strong rules. I would like if one day we have the same community in Ukraine.
What can German journalists do to help you best at the moment?
To tell their readers/viewers about the work of Ukrainian journalists – people, conditions. Many Ukrainian journalists are really brave and they do a very hard job every day. And it’s very different from the conditions of Russian journalists who are mostly based in European cities and pretend to be «victims of the regime». That would be very helpful for us if people around the world could understand this difference.
What about freedom of the press in Ukraine?
After the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 the situation became much better. Many new independent media outlets were established and we got a pretty strong community of journalists with similar values of professional life. We had conflicts with authorities sometimes, especially after publishing a big investigation. Since the war started some of the open databases (like the register of official declarations) were closed, so we don't have access to them anymore. There are many regulations to work in the frontline, but I believe it’s necessary. Otherwise I can’t say that the authorities try to control journalists, we publish everything we want to publish without any problems.
How do you deal with the danger of living and staying in Kyiv? You also have a daughter...
I just try to plan my life no further than for one or two weeks. All plans might be destroyed by Russian missiles, I understand that. When we are in the office we try to plan for a longer term – we do it, but we know that it might not work. I have a great team, my people are really amazing at dealing with dangerous situations – we talk a lot before making complicated decisions, but then we act very fast. As a journalist I want to be in my country in these hard times, to feel what citizens feel now. For sure, it’s not pleasant to see pictures of a bomb shelter with my daughter in the school chat. But all my close people – my parents and brother, my boyfriend and ex-husband and best friends – are staying in Ukraine. All my team as well. I just want to be with people I love, to support them and to get support from them.
What is your biggest fear at the moment?
That people I love might be killed.
That Russia might use a nuclear weapon and the world will not help Ukraine anymore.
An observation from the war that surprised you?
New details of tortures committed by Russians especially with women and kids. Sometimes I think we saw everything, but every new way of torturing Ukrainians makes me very sad. I didn’t imagine before the war how awful people might be in the modern world.
How did you start journalism?
When I was 15 years old I realized that there are many interesting things going on around me and that I want to tell people about them. I called and came to the local newspaper and told editors that I want to write for them. In the end one of the editors gave me the first task. I wrote the article and it was published on the front page. I was very happy! For the next 6 months I published ten articles in local newspapers and with them passed exams to Dnipro national University to enter the journalism faculty.
A research trick?
To check people's phone numbers with special programs (like Getcontact) to identify how people appear in the phone books of others.
A writing tick?
To find a main character and build a complicated story (almost all investigative stories are complicated) around this person.
What does good editing mean to you?
To make things clear, to tell stories with simple worlds, to illustrate with human experience, to use details from reporting.
Which text by another author: would you have liked to have written it yourself?
Hard to answer. I almost don’t write by myself, mostly I edit stories.
Insider tip that makes every text better?
Human stories. Dogs and cats :)
A book that shaped you as a journalist (and why)?
For the last month I’ve read two books, both of them really inspired me.
«She said»by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey – about The New York Times investigation of sexual harassment of Harvey Weinstein. I was really impressed how real journalism works, how hard it is to collect proofs, and how emotionally hard it is to work on this kind of story. And the book is written very professionally – I’ve read it in 26 hours, I couldn’t stop reading.
«Hiroshima» by John Hersey – another great example of American journalism. The most impressive thing that the reporter first interviewed the main characters – victims of the nuclear bomb – in 1945, then he came back to them in 40 years, in 1985. It makes the story very powerful, journalists usually don’t do reporting with 40 years pause.
A book about the attack on Ukraine that you would like to recommend to everyone?
There are not many books published by now, so unfortunately I can’t recommend any. I hope it will happen soon.
Anna Babinets ist Chefredakteurin der investigativen Website Slidstvo.Info mit Sitz in Kiew, sie ist außerdem “Regionalredakteurin” des Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). Ihre Themen: Aufdeckung von Korruption, Geldwäsche und andere Kriminalfälle. Sie ist Mitglied des Panama Papers-Teams und hat mehrere Geschichten über den ehemaligen ukrainischen Präsidenten Petro Poroschenko und seine Offshore-Firmen verfasst. Sie ist außerdem eine der Autorinnen der Dokumentation “Killing Pavel” über den Mord an einem bekannten Journalisten in Kiew. Seit Beginn des russisch-ukrainischen Krieges konzentriert sich Slidstvo.Info auf die Berichterstattung über Kriegsverbrechen und die Identifizierung russischer Militärangehöriger in der Ukraine. Für ihre Arbeit und ihren Mut erhielt sie stellvertretend für Slidstvo.info den Sonderpreis 2022 des Reporter:innen-Forums.