The person who works for the people
Nikol Ignatova, 10th grader at the 91 German High School “Prof. K. Galabov”, talks to investigative journalist Dimitar Stoyanov about his profession, the risks he takes in his everyday life and the meaning of being a journalist.
“The brave journalist,” whom I will present today, is a true reporter without borders. Investigative journalist Dimitar Stoyanov once again proved his professionalism in his field after he and his colleague Attila Biro were awarded the George Wiedenfeld Prize for Risk and Brave Studies on May 2, 2019. With over 15 years of experience in media such as BTV, AgroTV and Bivol, Dimitar will tell us more about himself.
I congratulate you for your Axel Springer award! Would you tell us more about the reward you were nominated for?
This is the first time ever this prize was given. Axel Springer annually awards young journalists up to the age of 33. The prize George Weidenfeld was first awarded to the Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, who was murdered last year. In his honour Alex Springer gave him a special prize, which grew into an annual award, which my college and I were first to receive. It is bestowed on contributions to investigative journalism and successful risky investigations. We were awarded because of the „G.P. Gate“ investigation that is still ongoing and because of our refusal to surrender even after we were detained.
How do you feel about receiving this award?
I am feeling good and a bit scared at the same time. Firstly, scared of the big expectations coming torwards me and secondly scared of the eventual chance to get misled by my growing ego.
Let’s get back to the beginning of your career. Why did you decide to do investigative journalism?
The word “career” sounds too strong. In fact, we are “volunteering journalists.” In this line of thought, this is not professional journalism because we do not get a monthly salary. We (from Bivol), as a media, get supported by donations and do our best.
I published my first post for the school newspaper at the age of 18. Since then, I have not stopped writing – I have worked in many editions over the years, most of which no longer exist. So, I can call myself a living encyclopedia of the Bulgarian journalism over the last 20 years.
What inspires and motivates you to carry out your own investigations?
It’s all about the inner feeling. Our motivation (of investigative journalists) is our aspiration to inform ourselves and other people, because this is their absolute right and obligation. Only an informed society can take the right decisions for its future. We strive to inform people in order to be able to form their own opinion on one or another problematic agenda item.
I believe in civil society and reckon as right building up a government of sensible people who are responsible for their own decisions and behaviour. Basically, we work for those who want to know and not for those who want to be led. We work for people who believe in themselves; who are convinced that they can make accurate choices; who can acknowledge their mistakes. This is my motivation.
Tell us more about the day of an investigative journalist. How does it normally go by?
Every day is different, and this is the best part of this profession. It usually happens in gathering information, meeting with victims, “insiders” and “whistle-blowers”. Along with many trips, validation of facts and circumstances, filming of irregularities, undercover work and hidden cameras this happens to be the pleasant side of the profession. The unpleasant part is when you must describe for 3-4 hours raw material and install interviews with 6-7 people in a whole movie. Here too, one has to make a lot of effort and be inspired during the process. The key thing is to choose the right topic and tell the story in the best possible way.
What are the difficulties you meet every day in the role of an investigative journalist?
Frankly, I do not feel them as a hardship. In the daily life of an investigative journalist there are threats regularly, and if not – means you are not doing your job properly. This is a mark for a well-done job. When there is a response – lawsuits, threats, attacks – things are going in the right direction. These difficulties are anticipated and assessed – in short, the risks of the profession.
People do not stay long in the life of investigative journalists. Some are more valuable than others. That is why there are people and staff turnover, because under pressure, the journalist changes his address regularly. I would not define this as a difficulty, but as an integral part of the life of this profession.
What are the qualities, an investigative journalist should possess to cope with this intensive lifestyle?
Stubbornness, objectivity and sincerity come on the first place. A person should be self-critical and have a dose of courage and a well-expressed sense of self-preservation. Apart from that a journalist must build an attitude to different people, speak a few languages and accept that the glory of this profession lasts no more than 3 minutes. He has to live for the future and strive to make his every next investigation his best. The journalist should not get disappointed with himself because the revelation of the truth was not welcomed the expected way. After all, he should not have expectations. The journalist should always be critical, brave and ready to develop.
What advice would you give to young people who want to follow your path?
If I had to joke, I would advise them to think seriously. But I really hope that there are more people who want to look out for the truth, because now the young journalists’ deficit is sharpening. There is a lot of marginalization in this area – reporters have become handles for microphones and overall the quality of the media product is not good. The environment is mediocre not because the young are not talented, but because there is this media monopoly.
However, I hope that young people will gather strength and experience. This will make it clear whether this is for them or not. You just close your eyes and jump in the dark.
With these final words Dimitar Stoyanov ended this interview, which I am deeply thankful for. As a conclusion a person could agree that the life of an investigative journalist always hides surprises – likeable or not. However, these only strengthen their important role in the society, because without people searching for the truth there would simply be no justice and rule of law. For this work are needed bright citizens, who have to convey the meaning of every situation in an accurate and objective way. For this reason, we should look up to them and support them in every way possible.