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Opening Academic Year Faculty of Arts 2022: Arts Lecture by Iris de Graaf

Traditionally, the Faculty of Arts opens the academic year with the 'Arts Lecture'. This year the 35th edition took place on Tuesday 6 September in the Aula of the Academy Building. The lecture was delivered by Russia correspondent and UG Alumnus of the Year 2022 Iris de Graaf and was entitled 'Unfreedom' - How we can stay connected in repressive times and strengthen voices in society.


Since 2020, the world has drastically changed. First, because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Then: a war that shocked the western world. Both crises isolated countries, people and their voices. Either through fear, the overload of (dis)information, and through authoritarian regimes that use these situations to implement increasingly repressive laws and measures.

Reporter Iris de Graaf has witnessed the effect of these crises from within a country that heavily limits the freedom of its citizens: Russia. During the Arts lecture, De Graaf talked about how she does her work in a country where press freedom, activism and independent research are almost entirely eliminated and criminalised. Where people are afraid to talk or share their opinions, where social research is no longer critical or reliable, and where a full blown information-war rages, affecting all public spheres, from school history books to academic research and social media.

And on top of that: there is almost no empathy left in the public opinion to listen to what is going on inside Russian society. How can you share stories from a country that has been written off by the whole world? De Graaf shared insights into the importance of maintaining a connection with this isolated country through language, compassion, and by sharing the stories of those who have lost their voices.

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Iris de Graaf (1991) is an alum of our faculty and works as a correspondent in Russia for the NOS and Nieuwsuur. She is editor-in-chief of the NOS bureau in Moscow and reports from all over Russia and the surrounding region. De Graaf makes reports for television, radio and online platforms. In addition to (live) reporting, she writes background articles.

“As a little girl, my Russian grandmother was the reason I became fascinated by Russia. While studying Slavonic and Russian Studies, where I learned to speak, read and write the language, I immersed myself in the history and culture of the country. By living in Russia, that fascination has gradually turned into amazement and an urge to understand the country. I went back to the Netherlands for a Master's degree in Journalism and I knew what I wanted to be: a Russia correspondent.”

On 4 March 2022, Iris de Graaf tweeted that she would temporarily continue her work from the Netherlands. De Graaf's move followed the decision of the Russian parliament, after the Russian army's invasion of Ukraine, to increase drastically the penalties for spreading so-called 'false information'. She is now back in Moscow.

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Alumnus of the year 2022

On July 5 this year, the University of Groningen has awarded NOS Russia correspondent Iris de Graaf the title of Alumnus of the Year 2022. "The Russian invasion of Ukraine has', according to the jury, 'once again demonstrated the importance of independent journalists, who know the facts, give clarity to developments, separate the wheat from the chaff, and allow a variety of perspectives to be heard. Iris de Graaf is this sort of journalist."

More information

For more information and/or questions, please contact the department of Communication, Career & Society (CCS), Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen. Email: info.let

Last modified:28 September 2022 5.51 p.m.
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