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Threatening journalists is no joke

Robert Holloway is DL News’ ombudsman. Views expressed are his own.

People who have clashed with Aleksandr Ivanov may be relieved to hear that he has no ties with the Russian mafia.

Ivanov, founder of Waves Lab, repudiated his earlier claim in an interview with DL News Director Paige Aarhus.

“I have no ties to the Russian mafia whatsoever,” he said.

Asked if he had been joking when he told a critic “I’ll visit you with one of my Russian mafia friends,” Ivanov replied: “I was just trying to cheer people up a bit.”

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Ivanov is a native Russian speaker, and as any interpreter knows, humour is the most difficult thing to translate.

Pretending to threaten people on social media, however, is not funny in any language.

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Journalists are more aware of this than most people. Words are the tools of a journalist’s trade. The best among us use words to tell truths that some people want to suppress.

Words which can cost journalists their lives.

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The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 67 reporters and photographers were killed last year, a sharp increase on 2021. Fifteen of them were covering the war in Ukraine, but not all those who died were in conflict zones.

Journalists working on stories about crime or corruption also face constant threats. As do those who expose exploitation of the environment.

Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that in 80% of cases over the past decade, no-one has been brought to justice for killing a journalist.

Freedom House gave details of some of those killings in a report in November.

The same report says: “It takes an incredible amount of courage to be a journalist today. For those living under regimes that do not respect freedoms of the press or open expression, being a journalist means putting one’s life at risk. Journalists challenge the powerful so that their fellow citizens can learn about issues and stories others would prefer hidden.”

Making threats on social media, even in jest, encourages others to do likewise. The anonymity offered by social media can bring out the worst in some users, enabling them to say things they would be ashamed or afraid to say in public.

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In some countries, it is from the government which journalists have most to fear. As Ivanov should know, the Kremlin has taken extraordinary measures to stifle all independent media. Making jokes about the Russian mafia is to make light of that. It is an insult to Russian journalists who have been imprisoned or who have fled the country.

Towards the close of his interview with Paige Aarhus, Ivanonv said:

“No matter what happens, no matter how you hate me and threaten me, it doesn’t matter. I will keep going until the situation is resolved.”

Paige said this was not addressed to her personally, nor to DL News. “He was actually super nice and polite in person and never rude,” she said.

She interpreted his remarks as an expression of defiance towards his detractors, some of whom lost money investing in Waves and who have publicly threatened Ivanov.

DL News does not take sides with them. Our job is to report the truth as we find out about crypto finance. We do our best to give our readers accurate information, honestly and impartially.

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We are not infallible, but we follow professional principles and guidelines, and we rely on considerable experience, to achieve our aims.

Neither Ivanov nor his critics help us to do that by making threats, whether in jest or in earnest.

Do you have a tip about Waves or another DeFi protocol? Reach out to the co-author at tim@dlnews.com.