Who Decides the Truth: The Unreality of Journalism, Part 3
Editor’s note: neweurasia’s Musafirbek Ozod goes beyond statistics and formal reports to write about what it’s actually like to live and work as a journalist in Uzbekistan. This is the third part of a series, and part of the ongoing CyberChaikhana project.
Here the young blogger reflects upon his own reasons for becoming a journalist. Recalling a past conversation with an independent editor, he must confront a difficult reality: in Uzbekistan, even the very notion of truth is political, and its pursuit comes at a high price.
If the situation for young journalists in Uzbekistan is so terrible, then why did I become one? Like my peers, I originally had very naive and idealistic motivations.
Yet, I had never before confronted myself with the question: just what is Truth in Uzbekistan — and what does it take to be a journalist truly seeking it? But then a few years ago, while interviewing for a job at an independent news agency, I had a conversation that exploded my vague preconceptions.
The editor-in-chief sat me down and asked me why I wanted to become a journalist, and I answered that I wanted to serve my society: to expose injustice, to make authorities accountable to civil society, and to help my countrymen during crises.
“Yes, but so do representatives of other professions,” he retorted.
I thought it over and realized that he was right: the desire to serve was not in itself a rationale for becoming a journalist. I felt a pressing need to give him answer, and so I said, “I want to tell the truth to my countrymen.”
“Does a journalist have the capacity to determine what the truth is?” he asked.
Again, I realized he was right. Were journalists truth-speakers or truth-seekers? By what measure could we decide what is and isn’t reality?
Suddenly faced with an existential crisis, my need to give him an answer becamethe need to give myself an answer. Desperate, I sputtered, “I want to be an independent journalst and report on a situation completely objectively, without any feeling of influence upon me whatsoever!”
He studied me for a moment, then calmly said, “Do you really want to be independent in whatever you do? Then, you should remember that the definition of independence is when everyone hates you.”