From Donbass to the invasion, an 8 years long escalation: we condemn this war

The situation in Ukraine is collapsing. The Russian army carries out attacks in the biggest cities of the country, far beyond the borders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics. The war is on, right in the heart of Europe, several decades after the last biggest crisis.

All started in the tormented region of Donbass, where we lost a friend, a photoreporter, an inspiration for us all. Since 2014 a bond of sympathy and solidarity connects us to those unfortunate people. For this reason we feel urged to share our thoughts on the current state of things, yet much bigger than us.

First of all, let’s get rid of all the doubts insinuated by those who’d label us pro-Ukrainian or pro-Russian.

Since the Donbass turmoils, eight years ago, the ruling nationalist government of Kiev has put scarce efforts in relieving the border situation. We kept seeing on one hand a constant show of power towards Moscow, on the other Ukraine’s failure to become a western democracy -that came out loud and clear in the judicial case of the murder of Andy Rocchelli and Andrey Mironov, in which Ukraine deliberately hindered the inquiries. Ukraine plays a very ambiguous role. Furthermore, a new NATO ally just next door would have been hard to ignore for the Kremlin. 

That said, Putin’s military overreaction hints at an old-fashioned imperialistic dream. Deaths, miseries and atrocities will come: that’s a huge moral, historical and political responsibility.

We don’t back any government. We believe in peace and condemn any war, we always take the civilians’ side. In these hours our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people, who’re paying the highest price for a conflict they didn’t want. 

Right after a painful pandemic, given all the intellectual means we nowadays dispose of, we deem such an invasion and territorial war a failure of international diplomacy. It shouldn’t happen, it shouldn’t happen anymore and definitely not here and now. We’re small ants in a hostile universe, can’t afford to damage one another.

Well, we haven’t been able to prevent this. We wish we’ll at least be able to be informed about these saddening events thanks to free, competent journalists, hopefully protected by both sides of the conflict; alas that’s rarely the case, as we learnt in 2014, when Andy and Andrey were targeted and killed by the Ukrainian army. Months of propaganda and lies are ahead of us.

Since public information exists, the best way to contain a war is a massive involvement of the public opinion. We, the public, must therefore be informed. Must get to know the truth. That’s why we need free press and protected journalists. We’re looking forward to reading your reports, hoping one day we’ll cease to call you heroes.


The Nobel Peace Prize 2021 goes to freedom of the press

Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov have very different stories. They share integrity, consistency and consequently sacrifice. They were chosen beyond their diversity to convey an unambiguous message. The Nobel Peace Prize 2021 goes to the free press, and it’s a warning to politics and governments. 10/08/2021 becomes a historical date in a way, because it marks the bond between an authoritative voice such as the Nobel Committee and our vision of politics and democracy: we can’t have peace if we can’t talk about war. Find below the Nobel Committee announcement itself.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace. Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.

Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and the Rappler’s CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.

Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions. In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta. Since 1995 he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for a total of 24 years. Novaja Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power. The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media. Since its start-up in 1993, Novaja Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ”troll factories” to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.

Novaja Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder. Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya. Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.

Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.

Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time. This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.”

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize states clearly and loudly that there can’t be peace without freedom of the press, because freedom of the press is the referee of political controversies. It’s imperative that all the governments face this issue when looking at actual wars, and to prevent more wars in the future.


Seven years waiting for justice: crucial days coming soon

Three months went by since the publication of the motivation of the appeal verdict. This has been rather painful for us to process: on one hand the confirmation of Ukraine’s responsibility of the double murder of Andy Rocchelli and Andrey Mironov, the involvement of the Ukrainian National Guard, the mortar fire shot from the Ukrainian Army deliberately targeting the two journalists till their material annihilation; on the other hand, the acquittal of Vitaly Markiv. Due to a formal flaw of the 1st grade trial. Truth and injustice.

Despite our anger, we decided to stick once more to the principles that guided us through this tragedy since its very beginning: keep close to the family, respect public institutions. Hence we patiently, quietly waited for the next steps of Italian Justice, while astonished witnessing the triumphal coming home of a soldier judged guilty but not chargeable. On May 24th, the 7th anniversary of Andy and Andrey’s death, we get ready for some decisive turns.

Exactly in these days the High Court of Cassation examines the verdict issued by the Court of Appeal. The resolution could be a sensational one: the decision of the Court of Appeal of not admitting some crucial evidence (the statements released by Markiv’s superior and comrades) due to a formal flaw might be ruled unlawful. This may lead to a delegitimation of the appeal verdict and foster its rediscussion.

The consequences would then be remarkable, as the formal flaw would be cancelled while the unquestionable substance would remain. We await with endless patience, asking the readers to wait with us.

Soon we’ll get to know what’s next, whether a new appeal will take place.

Meanwhile, the social and cultural involvement of Volpi Scapigliate keeps working. In the next months we’ll contribute to Cesura’s project of promotion of Andy Rocchelli’s archive and institution of a photo-prize in his memory. Volpi will work on the very contemporary topic of fake news, a theme intrinsically related to the storytelling Andy was focused on. Within the BambinFestival, a children festival held yearly in Pavia in the month of June, we’ll organize several talks dedicated to children, young adults, their parents and their educators. Together we’ll strive to craft a significative experience for all participants, a small step towards a better informed society.

Once again we find ourselves at a crucial node of this trial and of our involvement as cultural association. And once again that happens close to the anniversary we all hate. The path leads us further and we keep walking.

Oppure: there’s a long way ahead of us and we keep walking.

Articolo21 and the Milan Festival of Human Rights organized a press conference on May 24th, 5 pm. Andy Rocchelli’s parents, Rino and Elisa, their lawyer Alessandra Ballerini and the president of the Italian Press Federation will take part to the online talk, along with Paolo Perucchini (president of the Lombardy Association of Journalists), journalists Mario Calabresi, Nello Scavo and Mariangela Gritta Grainer, who widely covered the case. President of the lower chamber Roberto Fico will share a message dedicated to Andy Rocchelli’s story.