By Grant Buckler, for Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) has chosen Ukrainian journalist Oleksiy Matsuka as winner of the 2014 International Press Freedom Award (IPFA). The award will be presented to Matsuka at the 2014 CJFE gala on Dec. 3 in Toronto.
Matsuka is a veteran investigative journalist from Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, and editor of the regional news website, Novosti Donbassa , which charts politics, corruption and abuses of authority. In the spring of 2014, Matsuka was forced to flee his home in Donetsk after a slew of death threats and attempts on his life intensified with the city’s occupation by pro-Russian rebels.
“Oleksiy doggedly reports on corruption, abuses of power and the conflict between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces, despite ongoing threats and attacks,” said Carol Off, chair of the CJFE Gala. “He outright refuses to be intimidated or silenced, and for this we’re very proud to honour him with the 2014 IPFA.”
In August 2011, an unidentified intruder set Matsuka’s apartment on fire following the publication of several articles on the embezzlement of public funds by senior regional officials. The attacker left a wreath on the front door inscribed with the note: “To Oleksiy, from grieving friends.”
In the summer of 2013, Matsuka started Donetskaya Pravda, which is dedicated to the investigation of public officials, local government spending, public bidding on government contracts and conflicts of interest between public servants and the private sector.
Soon after its launch, the Donetskaya Pravda office was the target of an unsuccessful break-in attempt. Fingerprints belonging to a violent convicted felon were found on the office’s doorframe.
On April 12, 2014, two days after publishing an article titled “Russia’s deep ties to Donetsk’s Kremlin collaborators,” Matsuka’s car was set on fire outside of his home. A photograph of him captioned with the words “Attention, traitor!” was circulated in Donetsk shortly after. It is suspected that Matsuka was targeted by pro-Russian militants for reporting on the conflict with Ukrainian forces.
The International Press Freedom Award recognizes the outstanding courage of journalists around the world who work tirelessly, at great personal risk and against enormous odds, to share crucial, hard-hitting news stories.