Endangered Profession

This is the transcript of the speech Elmaz Asan gave during the Tactical Media Room Meetup at Spui25 on the 30th of June, 2022. Read the report on the debates here.

Good evening, dear participants and journalists of such an important event. I am honored to be among you.

Until 2014, as a journalist, I could not even have imagined for what kind of truth, for information that is based on real events and, eventually for your opinion, for your position, you can now suffer. You can receive a warning notice from the punitive authorities because you want to honor the memory of your ancestors in your native land.

However, lies and disinformation are actively encouraged there by the occupying regime. After the aggression of the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, the editorial offices of independent media were searched, and the Crimean Tatar TV channel ATP was not spared.

The profession of an independent and objective journalist became a dangerous career choice under the occupation. Free media, which did not submit to the invaders, had to leave the peninsula due to the systematic pressure, threats, and searches both in the editorial offices and in the homes of journalists and news correspondents.

After 2014, my colleagues, journalists from among the Crimean Tatars, suffered to a greater extent. Our people opposed the occupation and did not accept the occupying power that was established in 2014.

I want to give you a few examples of what happened to my fellow journalists after 2014 and of what is still happening on the peninsula. In the first days of the occupation of Crimea, my colleague Ibraim Umerov, when he was fulfilling his professional duty by filming the seizure of the Bogdan-Avto car dealership, was attacked by armed people. All this happened during a live broadcast, but this did not stop the Russian invaders. Ibraim was beaten, his phone was taken away so that he could not contact anyone, and the operator’s equipment was taken away.
I must also tell you about a journalist, political scientist, human rights activist and one of the young leaders: Nariman Celal.

Nariman Dzhelal, respected by all of us, and whom I know personally, did not leave the peninsula after 2014. Being in Crimea, he reported on events by calling them by their proper names. Media controlled by the occupiers were denied to him, so he used his own social networks and independent media, which are mainly located within the territory of Ukraine. He talked about every search, kidnapping, and other violations of the rights of the indigenous people of Crimea and discrimination that the Crimean Tatars experienced. He tried to help the families of political prisoners. He actively participated on international platforms, talking about systematic searches in the homes of Crimean Tatars and about the fate of illegally convicted compatriots. He was a voice that was not afraid to speak the truth, even if he was repeatedly warned and asked to be quiet.

In September last year, in order to silence and isolate him from society, first of all from his people, Nariman Celal was detained, accused of sabotage. Now he is in a pre-trial detention center. They want to put him in prison for fifteen years. The accusation is based soley on the testimony of hidden witnesses, there is not a single piece of evidence.

At that time, the Crimean media, controlled by the invaders, on the day of Nariman’s detention, without trial or investigation, called him a saboteur, as if his guilt had already been proven.
At the same time, Russian politicians, public figures, and bloggers on television on the YouTube platform justify the deportation and genocide of the Crimean Tatars, justify the persecution of representatives of our people and systematically humiliate and insult us, yet the Russian law enforcement agencies that de facto control Crimea do not react to this.

They say no one is responsible for hate speech, while the Crimean Tatars are being insulted on a national basis for false materials in the media and comments on social networks.

Propaganda media outlets continue to use the terms ‘extremists’ and ‘terrorists’ in relation to the Crimean Tatars. All because our people do not recognize the occupation of Crimea and do not recognize the occupying regime and continue the non-violent struggle. The whole civilized world is in solidarity with us. This irritates the occupiers and the media controlled by them.
“Crimean Tatar extremists are raising the Crimean issue against the backdrop of the conflict in Donbas”, “Why are Crimean Tatar radicals fighting for Crimea, while it is getting further and further from Ukraine”, “Why has it not been possible to “clean up” the radical Crimean Tatar underground in 5 years on the peninsula?”—such headlines are full of propaganda media in Crimea and in Russia as well. This is all within the framework of the Russian state information policy.

Dear colleagues, we have all gathered here to discuss the influence of Russian propaganda, how it poisons people’s minds. I, as a representative of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people, wonder—who will be held responsible and when will they be held responsible for insulting my people, my feelings? Why is the Russian media, without trial or investigation, allowed to call my people extremists and terrorists? They are replicating this all over the world in order to discredit our people. How long will I be humiliated in my native land?

After 2014, Ukrainian and international independent information resources were blocked in Crimea. It is not possible to open any information portal to read or see the true picture of what is happening in Ukraine and in the world. This is done on purpose to deprive people of the truth, of information, so that people remain under the full influence of the propaganda machine and become hostages of their lies and untruths.

Crimea has become a peninsula of fear, and madness; an information ghetto. On my native peninsula, propaganda media actively create the image of the Crimean Tatars as terrorists and extremists, and Ukrainians are shown as nationalists and Nazis. Against this background, history is being rewritten—by destroying the Crimean Tatar ethnic group, they creating a new myth about Russian Crimea.

Propaganda media only contribute to this, inciting and creating hate speech. YouTube and other international platforms are only used by them to spread lies. Only by blocking the propaganda media machine on these platforms, we can deprive them of the ability to poison the minds of people in Russia, in the territories it occupies, and in other countries.

The current Russian regime is held together by intimidation, lies, and propaganda. We must end this.