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12 RFE/RL Women Who Make Headlines

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) commends 12 RFE/RL women journalists for outstanding reporting. Their work has had significant impact within the communities they cover, and has won numerous awards. They have demonstrated courage, insight, and the highest professional standards, working under some of the most difficult conditions anywhere.

Saniya Toiken


Saniya Toiken has reported for RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service for over 20 years on social and political issues in western Kazakhstan, often at great personal risk. In October 2017, she was honored with the Courage in Journalism Award by the U.S.- based International Women’s Media Foundation. In her acceptance remarks she said, “For me, journalism is my life, and there's nothing I can do about it.”

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Natalie Sedletska


Natalie Sedletska is an award-winning investigative journalist with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in Kyiv, and host of the investigative TV program Schemes: Corruption in Details. With over 11 million viewers, the program, which explores the underside of Ukrainian politics, is widely noted for its influence, and is one of Ukraine’s First Public TV channel’s (UT-1) five most-watched broadcasts. Sedletska was one of several Ukrainian reporters to win the Global Shining Light Award for the YanukovychLeaks project in 2015.

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Golnaz Esfandiari

RFE/RL Central Newsroom

Golnaz Esfandiari, an RFE/RL senior correspondent and editor of the award-winning Persian Letters blog, is frequently sought out by global news media to provide analysis on Iran. Her expertise earned her a position for several years running in Foreign Policy's Top 100 Twitterati list. RFE/RL Pressroom recently spoke to her about her reporting on the wave of protests against compulsory veiling in Iran.

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Melanie Bachina


Melanie Bachina is a senior writer and producer for RFE/RL’s Russian Service. She recently wrote and directed Sheremet, a full-length documentary on the life and violent death of prominent journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was brutally murdered two years ago in Kyiv. The film is a brave and personal investigation into the oppressive information landscape of the former Soviet space, and the ultimate price one journalist paid for reporting the truth.

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Soltan Achilova


Veteran correspondent Soltan Achilova has reported fearlessly for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service on economic and social issues in Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most closed societies. Because of her work, she has endured physical attacks and threats that Human Rights Watch has characterized as "attempt[s] to limit criticism" of the Turkmen government.

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Malali Bashir


Malali Bashir, a journalist with RFE/RL’s Afghan Service, reports on a broad range of news topics, often from the perspective of women’s rights. She is the founder of a Facebook group for Afghan women that provides a safe space for discussion of topics that many in the traditional society consider taboo. Bashir was voted the most influential Twitter user in Afghanistan at the 2015 Afghan Social Media Summit, which celebrates innovative social media use in Afghanistan.

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Dzenana Halimovic


Dzenana Halimovic, a journalist with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service’s Sarajevo bureau, focuses in her reporting on war crimes and organized crime. She made headlines with her 2015 project The Faces of Srebrenica—a searing collection of photographs of some of the 8,000 Bosnian men and boys massacred by Bosnian Serb forces in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.

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Marichka Naboka


Marichka Naboka, a journalist with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in Kyiv, has been awarded by multiple press organizations for her reporting on the topic of sexism in Ukraine. She uses her video blog Youth Plus as a platform to address gender-related issues, ranging from women in politics to gender stereotypes. “Gender equality is a permanent topic—it never goes away,” she told RFE/RL in a recent interview.

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Narine Ghalechian


RFE/RL Armenian Service journalist Narine Ghalechian received the Yerevan Press Club’s Valery Aydinyan Prize in 2017, one of the country’s most prestigious press awards recognizing “the best combination of high quality journalism with innovation.” Ghalechian, who works in the service’s Yerevan bureau, has earned a reputation for tough reporting on corruption and public accountability, which has put her at personal risk on more than one occasion.

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Halina Abakunchyk


Halina Abakunchyk, a veteran reporter with RFE/RL’s Belarus Service in Minsk, was named 2017 Journalist of the Year by a coalition of human rights organizations in Belarus for her coverage of a standoff between activists and construction crews paid to erect an office building near a publicly revered, historic site. She has covered numerous political demonstrations and events, as a result of which she has been repeatedly detained by police, most recently while reporting on protests over a controversial unemployment tax last year.

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Alsu Kurmasheva


Alsu Kurmasheva is an editor with RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service, reporting on local and human rights issues within the Volga Tatar, Bashkir, and Crimean Tatar communities. She also manages Idel.Realii, the service’s new regional Russian-language micro-site. In a recent project, she explored the topic of cultural identity among the region’s ethnic minority women through a series of portraits taken by Russian photographer Sergei Poteryaev.

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Natalia Sergheev


Natalia Sergheev, a reporter with RFE/RL’s Moldova Service in Chisinau, was awarded for the Best Short Documentary in the 2017 European Short Film Festival and received the EU’s 2016 Young ADAMI Media Prize for her co-produced documentary Generation Emigration, which explores the phenomenon of mass youth emigration from Moldova. Sergheev began her career with RFE/RL as a Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow in 2015-2016.

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