E.Khurelbaatar: I’m investigating to expose an extremely secret issue

Trans. by B.DULGUUN

“Journalists’ wages are so low that it makes people working in other sectors wonder how we make a living. When I first became a journalist, I didn’t have money for bus fare, so I walked all the time. My shoe soles would tear so often that my wife wondered if I had thorns on my feet. Three shoes would wear out in just a month. Now that I think about it, I used to walk over 20 km a day to find news stories. Even so, all my worries would clear away once I’d finished writing a good article. I feel the happiest when talking about it with my wife,” said E.Khurelbaatar, upon receiving the Baldorj Prize, which is awarded to the best journalists in Mongolia.

The following is an interview with Daily Newspaper journalist E.Khurelbaatar.

Rumors that you had won the Baldorj Prize had spread a few hours before the award ceremony. Before receiving the award, were you aware that you’d be receiving it? Can you tell us about your winning articles?

I usually travel to the countryside around 20 times a year, but this year, I mainly stayed in the city. After contemplating over and over again, I decided to submit two of my investigative articles about the extinction of Mongolian gazelles and Khaniun Elementary School for the final stage of consideration.

Khaniun Elementary School in Undur-Ulaan soum of Arkhangai Province was built in the 1950s. Although old, the classrooms give a warm feeling as children’s drawings are stuck on the walls. The school, with a total of some 20 children, has three or four students in each class. These pupils are very good at their studies and have won many competitions. None of them had visited Ulaanbaatar. My article was titled, “A third grader believes Ulaanbaatar is the biggest city on earth”.

I was expecting my other article, “Lawless people in three eastern provinces are decimating gazelle herds”, to become one of the top articles, but I’d never imagined it to win the Grand Prix award. An hour before the award ceremony, a senior colleague told me on the phone that I might have to give a speech and that I should prepare something to say. I thought at the time that it was mandatory for people who’d been selected in the top 10 to give speeches. Although I was chosen for the top 10 awards in 2013, I couldn’t attend the event because I was gathering information in Khovd Province.

As the top 10 journalists were called out from the bottom, and my senior colleague B.Ganchimeg was called out quite early, I became nervous, but I believed that I would get a prize since I was invited. My heart started pounding and my hands were sweating when the announcer started calling out the first three places. During that moment, I could only hope that I might have won since my series of articles about Mongolian gazelles was really good. As I looked down and closed my eyes, my name was called out. I felt over the moon. I used to occasionally dream and hope to win this prize. 

What is your next dream? 

I want to “explode” and expose an extremely confidential issue that’s disturbing society. I’ve found the topic and now I’m doing research and drawing out the article in my mind. I’m not sure whether it’ll work out, but I’ll keep dreaming.

What will you do with the cash prize?

My parents, who’ve raised me all this time, live in Erdenesant soum in Tuv Province. For some time, I’ve been meaning to buy them a good car. They do have a small vehicle, but it’s quite uncomfortable to drive it to the capital . They always borrow someone else’s car to visit their grandchildren. 

You seemed very happy after receiving the award, but at this exact moment, gazelles are dying.

It’s truly heartbreaking and sad. Those hunters, who’ve lost their minds, only think of profiting and finding free food from nature. They are vicious like beasts even though they are human beings. They’re exactly the same as wolves hunting gazelles. Now, hunting season is beginning. I really hope to stop people from hunting gazelles and protect these animals.

Good journalism can reach the public and influence law enforcement and policies. Most readers only think about certain issues after reading articles like yours about animal extinction that are published. They don’t do anything to protect the rights of animals. What is the role of readers? 

Humans have certain obligations to nature. People illegally hunting animals should be reported to law enforcement agencies. I hope herders set requirements on each other and make those doing wrong to nature understand the consequences of their actions.

I want law enforcement agencies to not merely stay in their rooms, but work on the grounds where violations are happening. Gazelles live only in eastern Mongolia where mat-grass grows. The most unfortunate thing is that Mongolians are chasing away gazelles, forcing them to escape to our two neighboring countries. Russia and China have begun building ponds and facilities for wild animals.

How can we change this mindset that doesn’t value or love animals?

I wouldn’t blame poor families for eating gazelle meat. However, famous Mongolian race horse trainers and company CEOs are being stingy over their livestock meat and making their herders eat gazelle meat. It’s unfortunate that a family with 2,000 livestock owned by someone in the capital is piling up gazelle meat in their small home and using it as food.

Most importantly, a network to pocket funding has been created among associated people in the environment sector and administrative bodies. That network is purging gazelles by taking advantage of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. People in this network are encouraging herders to eat gazelle meat and brainwashing them by saying that gazelles are eating away the beautiful land in eastern Mongolia and spreading foot and mouth disease to livestock. Obviously, herders will instinctively start hating gazelles if they think that gazelles are killing the livestock they’ve raised with so much care.

These misunderstandings should be corrected. The laws of nature will probably make sure that these beast-like people will get what they deserve. 

You said you were born in 1987, and you have worked in the industry for 10 years now. Does that mean you became a journalist at the age of 18?

My brother, Bat-Orshikh, works at Mongolian National Broadcaster. I used to enjoy his stories about how he met a certain member of Parliament, interviewed famous wrestlers and celebrities, and received a tip-off from the General Police Department. I started aspiring to become a journalist in seventh grade.

I worked at the Niigmiin Toli (Social Mirror) Newspaper during my sophomore year in university. I think I was meant to write investigative articles from the beginning. Despite being in the socio-economic department, I used to always write speculative articles. 

As a person engaged in investigative journalism, you must learn from other people’s mistakes, right?

There are many educated youth in Mongolia, clothed fashionably with nice cars and jobs. They have one shortcoming. They become involved in crime and leave a scar in their life because they couldn’t suppress their anger for a few seconds. Journalists report the news to make readers understand the consequences of crimes.

Some journalists consider acquiring information from the police and revealing it before others to be investigative journalism. Investigative journalism isn’t developing in Mongolia at all. People aren’t accessing or searching for secrets. For instance, to find out how potatoes are fertilized in China, people should visit a farm once in the spring and visit again or work at the farm during autumn. While working, they can study how Chinese potatoes affect the human body.

 Do you have a topic you’ll never challenge?

The fate of many depends on what we write. Unless we receive information from all sources, an innocent person can become a victim and be hated by the whole society. I will always remember this risk and not pinpoint one specific source. 

You hardly stay at home and go to the countryside once a week. What answer do you seek from journalism?

Of course, I want to become an excellent journalist and be respected by everyone. I truly love this job. I meet good and bad people in each sector and expand the scope of my friends. I feel the best and happiest when I remember that my articles are read throughout Mongolia. During those times, I feel like twirling my car keys around my finger and whistling in the newsroom.

Famous journalist Ts.Baldorj once said, “Journalists find food with their own effort.” Journalists are similar to detectives because once we find a lead, we chase after it all the way. One police officer asked if I used to be a police officer because I had written in the same method as him to catch a criminal. 

What is your ultimate goal?

There are many people whose rights are unprotected and violated and have become victims because the court sides with people who have power and money. Me and my colleagues at Daily Newspaper aim to protect these victims and expose crimes to the public. I want to bring justice to people whose fates were turned upside down unjustly. 

Source: Unuudur


Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=16311

Posted by on Sep 22 2015. Filed under Prime Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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