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Plaudits for journalist who exposed 1930s famine

A renowned former regional journalist who was shot by pirates has been lauded as one of journalism’s bravest “eyewitnesses of truth” in a new academic textbook.

Gareth Jones, who worked for the Western Mail during the 1930s, was shot dead the night before his 30th birthday, with some believing his murder was ordered by Soviet officials in revenge for his honest reporting of a devastating famine in Russia and Ukraine, which they tried to keep hidden.

In his latest book, Gareth Jones: Eyewitness to the Holodomor, King’s College Pennsylvania professor Ray Gamache praises the reporter for his “profoundly important” reports.

Gareth’s testimony is also being used in an official bid to get the famine recognised as a ‘holodomor’, or genocide.

Speaking to meetings in Aberystwyth and Cardiff, Prof Gamache said: “Gareth Jones’s reporting of the famine was indeed ethical and courageous, for he not only challenged the might of Stalinist repression, disregarded personal safety and sacrificed personal and professional advancement, but he paid the ultimate price for his profession when he ventured into hostile territory in 1935.

“His death serves as a reminder of the journalist’s moral responsibility to cover distant suffering with an injunction to care.”

Former Western Mail special correspondent Gareth Jones (left), who exposed the horrors of the Soviet famine of the 1930s

A full report on WalesOnline details how Gareth, after returning from a tour of Russia and Ukraine in 1933, sold an article to newspapers across the world telling how he had “tramped” his was across the countryside as journalists had been banned from visiting certain regions to see the suffering of peasants for themselves.

His article was given a frosty reception by many who were reluctant to believe Stalin would deliberately cause a famine to kill off his enemies, including Liverpool-born journalist Walter Duranty, who wrote a piece for the New York Times entitled “Russians hungry but not starving.”

Gareth published a strong rebuttal soon afterwards.

He left Britain again in 1934 on a fact-finding mission, and was killed by bandits shortly into his trip in a move many believed to have been engineered by the Soviets as revenge for his reporting.

The UK government has refused to formally recognise the 1930s Soviet famine as a genocide as there has been no judicial ruling to state that, but a campaign is now expected to lobby the Welsh Assembly to do so instead, using Gareth’s reports as evidence.

Gareth Jones: Eyewitness to the Holodomor is published by Welsh Academic Press for £35.