Are the death threats worth it?
Have you ever heard the saying "You'll never forget your first"? Well, that adage holds true even when it comes to death threats.
Q: You’ve spoken openly in the past about receiving credible death threats, especially from Ramzan Kadyrov and his associates, because of the type of reporting you pursue. I’ve heard you mention in several interviews that you had to stop traveling to Russia and that you avoid sharing the details of your whereabouts online because of the risks involved. That can’t be easy for anyone.
My question is this: Was it worth it?
Have a question to ask? Join Sports Politika as a paid subscriber to participate in the Office Hours
A: Have you ever heard the saying "You'll never forget your first"? Well, that adage holds true even when it comes to death threats.
I remember my first death threat well. It was 2016 and I had just received a WhatsApp message from one of Ramzan Kadyrov’s henchmen—a person I had met during one of my trips to Russia. At the time, I was working as an English commentator for a prominent Russian mixed martial arts organization called M-1 Global, which is how I first became aware of Kadyrov and the Chechen dictator’s penchant for combat sports. Kadyrov had just launched his own fight club and MMA promotion, and had even signed a couple of his fighters to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). I decided it was time to start writing about Kadyrov’s growing influence in the sport.
Shortly after publishing my first series of articles on Kadyrov forand Sports on Earth, I received a message with a single demand: publicly apologize to Kadyrov, or else.
These messages did not stop. I continued to receive threats and demands for a public apology—a widespread practice used by Kadyrov whereby a person publishes a video asking Kadyrov for forgiveness. Usually the apologies are given under pressure, including threats and torture.
Here is an example of one of those videos:
Fully aware of the significance and potential danger associated with these messages, I wasted no time in sharing this information with Vox Media (my employer at the time) and their security team and local authorities. In doing so, I hoped to both protect myself and ensure that appropriate measures were taken to address the situation. Their advice was unequivocal: cease all travel to Russia immediately and never divulge your current location under any circumstances.
After more than a dozen trips in a two-year span, my time in Russia had come to an abrupt end. As to whether it was worth it, paid subscriber can find the answer to that question (and ask their own) below.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Sports Politika to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.