On July 23, a colleague’s grandmother called the newsroom, crying like a child. She had just received the new issue of ZdG, read the investigation of her granddaughter, Diana Gațcan, and got restless. She was afraid of what might happen to the reporter. It is that dreadful fear, which we, those raised in during the Soviet Union, still remember. We know that whoever criticized the high-ranking officials could disappear or end up in prison or in a psychiatry hospital.
This grandmother’s anxiety evoked painful memories. I remembered my own mother calling me for 16 years, nervous and worried, to ask if I was okay, as she read the investigation about President X, or Prosecutor Y, or Oligarch Z.
Although I don’t know my colleagues’ parents and grandparents personally, I have heard disturbing stories about their state while reading ZdG articles.
I know that Victor’s mother, Anatolie’s mother, and Daniela’s parents are worried. I know that Ecaterina and Marina sometimes had dilemmas. Should they communicate to their mothers about the risks they were subjected to during filming in the field or to refrain?
I know that Aliona’s mother is worried that her daughter cannot eat anymore because of so much stress and I sometimes thought that she doesn’t even have a stomach (her appetite restores on vacation, though, so it’s ok). I know Olga doesn’t tell her parents everything.
Let me also say that two of our colleagues now are expecting babies and their safety is also a priority of ours.
Let me tell you that I often saw my colleagues in tears after the verbal abuse and threats of some politicians and I thought that their parents pay taxes to maintain those brutes in public positions.
Probably my colleagues’ parents, grandparents, and families expect to find a promise from us while reading this article: that we will do this and that and there will be no more risks in the lives of their loved ones. I would very much like to be able to make such a promise.
But I have not been able to make such promises for 16 years. All I could promise was to strive for and ensure safer working conditions for the journalists. In an investigative group, however, people come taking risks and not believing in promises.
Now, the pandemic added new risks to the lives of ZdG reporters. Working for an investigative newspaper, reporters cannot do it from home. They have to monitor and analyze possible frauds in the field. Thanks to our donors, we managed to quickly find good masks, visors, overalls, and disinfectants. We also ensured security measures at the office as well as online security measures. Nevertheless, there’s still the big challenge: how do we protect them from possible abusers, masked servants, and corrupt people in cars with tinted windows?
Our voice remains the best defense in these conditions. The more vocal we are and the more numerous we are, the larger the space for freedom of expression and independent journalism will become.
One can view working in an investigation team as a source of permanent risk and turmoil or as an extremely important, necessary, and honorable job.
It’s a difficult job and not everyone can do it. The fact that a wonderful person in your family has chosen to do this work is an honor for us. Having a member of your family at ZdG means you have a fighter for transparency, truth, and justice nearby.
In a corrupt state, everyone needs a fighter for justice nearby and it is a blessing for those who have it. In turn, a strong family empowers a journalist a lot.The families of investigative reporters are the great support from behind.
Finally, I want to thank my family who has gone through stresses and anxiety for all these 16 years. When I set off with ZdG, my daughter was only four years old and my son was 12 years old. I left them on their own too many evenings, and it was just when children of their age needed a mother’s care the most.
Many threats against ZdG accidentally fell on them as well. For many years, I could not get home sad, because they, as well my husband, or my mother, looked at me worriedly and asked: Did anything happen at ZdG? A new trial? A hard threat?
I always just smiled and said there were no problems. They didn’t believe me, but they learned that this is how problems should be treated – with a smile and with confidence that they are small and will be solved.