Dear members of the Pulitzer Prize Board!
We, the undersigned Ukrainian journalists, are grateful to you for crediting us for the coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian war and for our effort to counter Russia’s propaganda.
This is a great honor to those of us who have clearly differentiated between the notion of “freedom of speech” and that of “Russian propaganda” for all the years since 2014, when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.
However, this award makes it imperative for us to address you on the matter concerning Walter Duranty. This journalist, who for many years served as Moscow bureau chief of The New York Times, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for a series of manipulative reports from the Soviet Union. In those reports he excused the existence of concentration camps, justified the extermination of enemies of the Soviet power and explained the necessity of Stalinist totalitarianism. Later, in his articles, Walter Duranty supported Soviet propaganda and denied Holodomor, which claimed the lives of more than 6 million Ukrainian citizens.
We may debate the reasons why Mr. Duranty covered Stalin’s regime and that of the USSR the way he did, but there’s no doubt that his flattering reports, especially as they were honored with the Pulitzer Prize, made a considerable impact on the way the US and the rest of the world perceived the Soviet dictatorship. And it was those reports that contributed to establishing Stalin in the international community’s public opinion as a “wise” politician and not a bloodthirsty tyrant and Hitler’s partner in unleashing WW II.
In 2003, the Board considered a similar appeal and decided to keep the decision in force. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the ongoing RF’s war on Ukraine is a consequence of the West’s uncritical attitude to the Russian tradition of totalitarianism. And it is largely because of Mr. Duranty’s work that the horrible regime was covered with a mask of humanity and civility, which was often mistaken for its true face.
We have no doubts about the stylistic perfection of his texts. But, in our opinion, even the most refined reports do not deserve a reward if they are based on lies, manipulations and justifications of mass killings.
The Pulitzer Prize Board credited Ukrainian journalists for “their courage, endurance, and commitment to truthful reporting”. And now we are calling upon you to show your courage – to admit that the decision to award Mr. Duranty was a mistake and to withdraw his Pulitzer Prize.
The Participants of the Movement of the Ukrainian Journalists MediaRukh