|Born||January 24, 1966|
|Alma mater||Moscow State University|
|Known for||coverage of First and Second Chechen Wars|
|Awards||International Press Freedom Award (1997)|
Yelena Vasiliyevna Masyuk (Russian: Елена Васильевна Масюк) (born January 24, 1966) is a Russian television journalist known for her coverage of the First and Second Chechen Wars and her 1997 abduction.
Masyuk graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in journalism. In 1994, she began working for the then-independent television station NTV, covering the First Chechen War. She later stated that in her reporting, she tried "to show the Chechen side of the story, to give them a chance to tell their point of view, to show how terrible the war was for civilians and even Russian soldiers". The coverage earned her and NTV Russia's top television awards.
Masyuk went on from Chechnya to report in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. According to The Washington Post, "her name became synonymous with hot-spot journalism", and her crew became known as "the bravest, brashest and most professional reporters on the scene". She was also noted for the quality of her contacts within Chechnya.
In 2004, Masyuk created a four-part documentary entitled The Character of Friendship, exploring potential dangers in the Sino-Russian relationship. Despite orders from many local governments that it not be allowed to air, the documentary was shown widely across Russia.
After the first of Masyuk's reports showing the violence in Chechnya, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets attempted to revoke NTV's license to broadcast in retaliation. Masyuk was threatened directly with prosecution following an interview with Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev immediately after the Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis, in which Basayev succeeded in taking over 1,000 civilian hostages. The attorney general's office formally investigated Masyuk under Article 189 of the Criminal Code (harboring a criminal) and Article 190 (failure to report a crime), but the case was dropped after the attorney general was forced to resign for unrelated corruption charges.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, founder of the strongly nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, accused Masyuk in 1996 of being on the payroll of Chechen separatists. Masyuk took Zhirinovsky to court for slander, and in December 1997, the court ordered him to publicly apologize and to pay Masyuk $5,000 in damages.
In early 1997, Masyuk had been pulled from a Chechen assignment due to threats against her. However, she persuaded her editor to allow her to cover a rally in the Chechen capital of Grozny and conduct an interview with rebel commander Salman Raduyev. On 10 May, Masyuk, cameraman Ilya Mordyukov, and sound engineer Dmitri Ulchev were returning from Grozny to Ingushetia when six masked, armed men stopped their car. The three journalists were then forced into another vehicle at gunpoint and driven from the scene.
They would be held for 101 days, the final two months of which were spent in a forest cave. During this time, Amnesty International announced a campaign for her release, as did The Committee to Protect Journalists. On 18 August, NTV paid a $2 million ransom, and the three were released.
Masyuk later commented that she felt the kidnappings had been tactically foolish by the rebels in terms of public image: "Chechens made $16 million on journalists last year, but they lost much more ... They lost the journalists' confidence that they had had during the war." She added that the result was "an information blockade" surrounding the region.
Awards and recognition
Masyuk was named a Duke University media fellow in 1995, teaching at the DeWitt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism. Following her release from captivity in 1997, she also won the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
- "Yelena Masyuk". Committee to Protect Journalists. 1997. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- Lee Hockstader (27 May 1997). "Journalists Become Chechnya's Latest Victims". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- Suisheng Zhao (2008). China and the United States: cooperation and competition in northeast Asia. Macmillian. p. 131. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Attacks on the Press". Committee to Protect Journalists. 1995. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Zhirinovsky ordered to apologise to reporter". BBC News. 29 December 1997. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Details on revocation of journalist's accreditation". IFEX. 28 July 1998. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- Alessandra Stanley (19 August 1997). "As Chechens Free 3, Leader And Yeltsin Discuss Future". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- "Chechnya: Civilian hostages at risk". Amnesty International. 8 May 2000. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- David Hoffman (10 October 1999). "War Reports Limited on Russian TV". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
- Alessandra Stanley (9 December 1998). "4 Foreigners Are Found Beheaded In Chechnya". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 June 2011.