Courage in Journalism Award Winner Saniya Toiken Doesn’t Feel Lonely Despite Constant Threats

Power Women Breakfast L.A.: Kazakh journalist tells stories because it’s hard for women to “to get in any position”

Courage Award Power Women Breakfast LA 2017
Photographed by Ted Soqui for TheWrap

There’s no typical day for 2017 Courage in Journalism Award winner Saniya Toiken.

At TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in Beverly Hills on Thursday, Toiken recalled visiting the Kazakhstan border to find that officials were keeping drivers from entering yet taking their money.

After Toiken wrote about it, the problem was soon fixed. “All the trucks came through the border, and I kept a log of messages from all the drivers and they were thanking me a lot,” she said. 

In Kazakhstan, Toiken must work without First Amendment rights of her U.S. counterparts — and therefore routinely faces threats for her reporting.

She’s faced harassment and been a target of government scrutiny since she was run off the road after covering oil and gas workers’ rights in 2010.

Two years later, Toiken said she was evicted from her apartment because of false claims made against her after she reported on Kazakh security authorities. To keep her family safe from harassment and threats, she lives in another city.

But still, “I don’t feel myself lonely,” she said. “I’m always with people.”

Of course, to be a woman journalist in my country is very hard and difficult,” she said. “When I started my job, I could not get it right away. In my country, very different from [the U.S.], it’s very difficult for any women to get in any position. That’s why I do this job.”

“I do this because people call me any time of the day and they want me to cover their stories and I don’t have any choice,” she said. “I cannot do anything else when people trust me to tell their stories.”

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