“No other solution” in the face of “military censorship”: The Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta announced on Monday that it would suspend its publications until the end of the intervention in Ukraine, in full hardening of the Kremlin against dissonant voices.
Novaya Gazeta is a pillar of investigative journalism and has for almost 30 years published investigations into corruption and human rights violations in Russia. In 2021, this work, which cost several of its journalists their lives, received its Nobel Peace Prize, its editor, Dmitry Muratov.
This award and the international aura of Novaya Gazeta seemed until now to have relatively protected him from the pressure. But since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the authorities have tightened the grip even more around the last independent media in the country.
“There is no other solution”
Novaya Gazeta announced on Monday that it had decided to suspend its publications on its website, on social networks and in print after receiving another warning from the telecommunications police, Roskomnadzor, for violating a controversial law on “foreign agents”.
“There is no other solution. For us, and I know it, for you, this is a terrible and painful decision. But we must protect each other,” Dmitry Muratov wrote in a letter to the newspaper’s readers.
According to him, its editorial staff continued its work for 34 days “under the conditions of military censorship”, since the launch of the Russian offensive.
He says his journalists have covered combat zones in Ukraine and estimated the extent of “loss and destruction”.
On March 22, Dmitry Muratov announced that he was selling his Nobel Prize medal in favor of Ukrainian refugees. On Twitter, the NGO Reporters Without Borders responded by urging the authorities to stop their “censorship policies”.
The Novaya Gazeta newspaper was founded in 1993 and enjoys a good reputation for its investigations into corruption and human rights violations, particularly in Chechnya.
This commitment cost the lives of six of its collaborators, including the famous journalist Anna Politkovskaia, murdered in 2006.Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov [Evgeny Biyatov – Sputnik/AFP]
With respect, Novaya Gazeta nevertheless remains relatively marginal in Russia. In February 2022, its daily circulation was around 100,000 copies, while the completely free site required 40 million visits in the same month.
The last bastion of the free press
Specifically, Novaya Gazeta is criticized for not specifying that an NGO mentioned in one of its articles was qualified as a “foreign agent” by the Russian authorities required by law.
The newspaper received an initial warning on March 22, then a second Monday. Since the start of the military operation, websites for many Russian and foreign media have been blocked in Russia. Novaya Gazeta was the last stronghold of the free press still in operation.
In March, authorities also passed several laws cracking down on heavy prison sentences for what they consider to be “false information” about the conflict.
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The “foreign agents” law is another weapon used against organizations or individuals critical of the Kremlin.
Those described as “foreign agents” must present themselves as such in each of their publications, including on social networks. And the media that covers them must also clarify this every time.
Prosecutions for violating this law can have serious consequences. In December, Russia’s most respected NGO, the Memorial, which was branded a “foreign agent”, was banned from failing to state this status in certain publications.
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