Maks Levin named recipient of 2022 Courage in Journalism Award

“Every photographer dreams of taking a picture that will stop the War”
– Maks Levin

A commentary for the Courage in Journalism Award programme

Published 15 Jul 2022

Every year, The Legatum Institute Courage in Journalism Award honours a journalist who has been killed in the past year as a consequence of their work. It is a posthumous award and by definition, there is no winner.

Over the past few months, our judging panel reviewed the profiles of 67 journalists who were killed between the 1stof January 2021 and the 30th of June 2022. Many of these were journalists who received continual threats their lives and yet continued to report and investigate. Their commitment was to bring truth to their communities and nations.

The judges decided to honour one particular journalist that stood out for his determination to continue reporting despite the appalling dangers of the frontline in Ukraine and continuing threats from Russian forces and the Kremlin.

Maks Levin, a Ukrainian photojournalist, was awarded with the 2022 Legatum Institute Courage in Journalism Award.  Beyond covering current events, he portrayed the life of the Ukrainian militaries and the impact of the conflict in civil society during and after confrontations.

Maks had documented the conflict in Ukraine since the 2014 Russian incursion. His work was featured in a range of outlets including the BBC, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Time Magazine.

During an interview just before his death, Maks was asked why he did what he did. He replied: “I often ask myself that. What makes me come back? But I continue to because I should . It’s a kind of duty and responsibility for those brave people out there who are fighting. Also, to show other people that there’s war happening and it’s real. I want to show that these are the people who protect us all.

Maks was not only a journalist of extraordinary courage. He was a journalist of extraordinary integrity. He also remarked:

‘The information war is no less dirty than the one going in the fields. We have to be less salient, less afraid about telling the truth. After all, making something fake is pretty easy. So, it’s not a matter of work or method – ultimately, it’s a matter of conscience. Any person that would lie during peacetime will be very tempted to fake news in a warzone”.

Though the precise circumstances of his death remain unclear, evidence suggests that Maks was abducted along with a friend by Russian forces near Kiev on 13thof March.

His body was found in a village 3 kilometers north of the city on April 1st. According to the Ukrainian prosecutor General’s Office, he had been shot in his chest and head while unarmed and wearing a press jacket. A subsequent investigation conducted by Reporters Without Borders concluded that he had been executed by Russian forces, ‘possibly after being interrogated and even tortured.’

As well as being a pioneering photojournalist, Maks was also a father of four. We were honoured to hear from Maks’s ex-wife Inna, who shared her reflections of this extraordinary man.