The Nobel Peace Prize Acknowledges a Dangerous Era for Journalists

Just earlier than midday on Friday, Dmitry Muratov, the fifty-nine-year-old editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper in Moscow, was having a heated dialog with Elena Milashina, one of many paper’s star reporters. Milashina had simply submitted a draft of an investigative piece on Beslan that weighed in at about a hundred and fifty thousand characters (the size of roughly 4 or 5 New Yorker Profiles), and this, Muratov instructed me, “rendered me dumbfounded to a greater extent than anything that happened after.” What occurred after was that a name got here in from an unidentified quantity in Norway; Muratov declined it and continued having phrases with Milashina. Then Novaya Gazeta’s press secretary, Nadezhda Prusenkova, known as. “She said that the Nobel Prize Committee is announcing the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at that very moment,” Muratov mentioned. “And it’s us.”

Muratov shares this 12 months’s Nobel with the Filipina investigative journalist and govt editor Maria Ressa, “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” in line with the prize committee’s citation. But, when Muratov referred to “us,” he meant not himself and Ressa however himself and the workers at Novaya Gazeta. They have already began discussing what to do with their award of ten million Swedish krona (about 1.15 million {dollars}). Among different causes, the paper has been serving to youngsters with spinal muscular dystrophy, and a minimum of a number of the cash can be put aside for a basis serving to sufferers with this and different uncommon ailments. “And we’ll use a small part—say, a couple hundred dollars—to throw a party,” he mentioned. (He doesn’t intend to take any a part of the sum for himself.) The celebration wouldn’t happen instantly; many of the workers had gathered the night earlier than, to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the homicide of their colleague Anna Politkovskaya.

Novaya Gazeta was based twenty-eight years in the past by a group of about forty-five journalists. (The former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev—the second Russian ever to obtain the Nobel Peace Prize—was an early supporter, and nonetheless owns a small stake within the enterprise.) Early on, Muratov reported for the paper from the primary Russian battle in Chechnya; Politkovskaya was Novaya Gazeta’s correspondent through the second battle; Milashina covers the area now. In 2016, the paper was the Russian associate within the Panama Papers, the large data-journalism venture that uncovered the offshore financial institution accounts of many world leaders. The paper has been round far longer than simply about every other unbiased Russian media, and has additionally misplaced extra journalists to homicide than every other outlet. When I requested Muratov what he thought he received the prize for, he instructed me, as a substitute, who he thought the prize was supposed for: the investigative journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin, poisoned in 2003; Politkovskaya, who was shot in 2006; the investigative journalist Igor Domnikov, crushed to loss of life in 2000; the lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who represented the paper within the Domnikov case, shot in 2009; the junior reporter Anastasia Baburova, who was shot along with Markelov; and the journalist Natalia Estemirova, who was kidnapped and killed in Chechnya in 2009. “It’s for them—it’s just that the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously,” Muratov mentioned. Attacks on Novaya Gazeta and its journalists have continued: Milashina has been bodily assaulted, and, earlier this 12 months, the paper’s workplace in central Moscow was apparently sprayed with a toxic chemical compound.

This has been a terrible and dangerous year for Russian journalists. Independent media had been struggling to outlive earlier than, however they’ve by no means confronted such extreme and sustained stress from the authorities as they do now. Most of the remaining unbiased media have been declared “foreign agents,” an onerous designation that has a means of scaring off all advertisers. A number of others have obtained an much more extreme designation, of “undesirable organization,” which forces the media outlet to shut. Since July, Russian authorities have additionally added a number of dozen particular person journalists to their listing of “foreign agents,” a weird methodology of authorized othering that makes individuals unemployable, partly as a result of they should preface all of their public statements—written or spoken, within the media or on Tinder—with a lengthy authorized disclaimer declaring their foreign-agent standing. Various journalists, going through or fearing felony prosecution, have rushed into exile. The Nobel Peace Prize has struck the small journalists’ group in Moscow as much-needed proof that the world is watching them. But some have questioned if the world is taking a look at fairly the fitting place: Novaya Gazeta has fared higher than many of the different unbiased media, avoiding the crippling authorized designations.

When I broached the topic with Muratov, he recited a quick poem about survivor’s guilt by Alexander Tvardovsky. It begins, “I know that it’s not my fault / That others did not return from the war,” and ends with “That’s not the point, but still, but still, but still. . . .” Muratov continued, “Look, I wanted to shut the paper down on this day fifteen years ago.” That was the day after Politkovskaya was killed. “I had concluded that working at this paper was lethal. But the staff wouldn’t let me close it.”

To maintain the paper going, Muratov, who has been on the helm for twenty-four of its twenty-eight years, has prevented each state and overseas funding. (“I guess the Nobel Prize changes that,” he quipped.) He has additionally solid relationships with highly effective individuals who could assist defend the paper: Novaya Gazeta receives a lot of its help from subscriptions and donations from greater than a hundred thousand people, however its largest non-public buyers embody a former Okay.G.B. officer turned billionaire named Alexander Lebedev (who additionally owns the British newspaper the Independent) and the telecom tycoon Sergei Adonyev. Muratov holds a seat on the Public Council of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and he has, occasionally, leveraged this position when his journalists had been at risk.

Many Russian opposition activists and journalists and their supporters wished to see the jailed opposition politician Alexey Navalny get the Nobel Prize. Several Russian lecturers in exile had organized a campaign with that purpose (the Nobel Committee accepts nominations from lecturers), and the previous Polish President and Nobel laureate Lech Walesa joined the trouble. Some of them didn’t cover their disappointment on the committee’s resolution. Konstantin Sonin, a professor of public coverage on the University of Chicago, wrote on Facebook that he even suspected that the Nobel Committee had change into corrupt—the implication is that the committee selected Muratov as a compromise candidate, to keep away from offending the Kremlin when Navalny was the plain selection.

“I believe the Nobel Prize is in his future,” Muratov mentioned of Navalny. “He is going to receive it. And I know that, if I were a member of the Nobel Committee, I would have voted for him. He has earned it with his personal, self-sacrificing, reckless bravery. And also by not taking himself too seriously.” Those standards match Muratov himself fairly nicely, too.

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