I have never travelled to Moscow, and now it seems I never will. St Petersburg blew my mind, but that was more than a decade ago, and it has always been the surreal scale of the capital, with those seemingly endless housing projects around its jewelled centre – described to me by The Independent’s correspondents over the years – that fired the imagination.
Forgive such a selfish, trivial reaction, but I am relieved that, fortunately, for now at least, our reporters do not feature on the list of 29 British journalists the Kremlin has decided to ban from travelling to Russia, so you can rest assured that there will be no impact on The Independent’s fearless, free and (of course) truly independent reporting – or, to use the Kremlin’s preferred description of our journalism, the “deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information about Russia and events in Ukraine and Donbas”, with “biased assessments” that “contribute to inciting Russophobia in British society”.
So, should you believe my description of our journalism – as work that strives for balance and fairness, however difficult the circumstances – or the Kremlin’s? Well, in true Independent style, I’ll leave it to our readers to make up their own minds.
One point of fact that is certainly wrong in this missive from Moscow is my job title. I enjoyed immeasurably the honour of being “editor-in-chief” of The Independent, but I haven’t held that position for more than a year. I’m managing director now, though my passion for supporting and empowering our brilliant international correspondents has not changed.
The journalism of our reporters in Ukraine has been equal to any in our 36-year history. War correspondents are the most readily admired in our industry, and for good reason. Our team’s accounts of the Ukrainian fightback in Kharkiv and the unfolding carnage in Donbas will live with me, and with many of our readers, I’m sure.
And our reporting comes in video form, too, these days. If seeing is believing, well, it’s hard to believe that the recent short documentary for Independent TV, titled On the Ground, that recorded lives torn apart by the barbaric “special operation” in Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Borodyanka, Makariv and Trostianets, was in fact an elaborate “deep fake” fabrication.
These travel bans, sadly, will have considerable and very real consequences for some of the reporters on the list. Not so much for those like me, who tend to stay back in the office, but for those who are Russia specialists – those who, until the conflict, lived in cities like Moscow. Will they one day go back to those lives, those friends?
But the travel bans will not silence our industry. The determination of reporters is not to be underestimated. They will continue to hold truth to power. And there is one particular truth we all know: any government that attempts to crack down on journalism clearly has something to hide.
Christian Broughton is managing director of The Independent