Sign of the Times

On Nov. 24, 2004, sign language interpreter Nataliya Dmytruk was presenting a live news broadcast on a state-run Ukrainian television channel when the voice announcer (and her official script) declared that prime minister Viktor Yanukovych had won the recent run-off presidential election, a result widely believed to be fraudulent.

She signed, “I am addressing everybody who is deaf in Ukraine. Our president is Victor Yushchenko. Do not trust the results of the central election committee. They are all lies. … And I am very ashamed to translate such lies to you. Maybe you will see me again.”

Her act emboldened other Ukrainian journalists to stand up against manufactured news accounts and led to another election, in which Yushchenko, the opposition candidate, was declared the winner.

For her stand, Dmytruk received the International John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award. “After every broadcast I had to render in sign language, I felt dirty,” she explained later. “I wanted to wash my hands. Without telling anyone, I just went in and did what my conscience told me to do.”