Dmitry Muratov, a Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner in the midst of repression

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It is a monument of Russian journalism which received, Friday, December 10 in Oslo, the Nobel Peace Prize. Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta , Dmitry Muratov is the third Russian to obtain this distinction after the human rights activist Andrei Sakharov and the last president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev.

From our correspondent in Moscow,

Good-natured or rough character depending on the day, Dmitri Mouratov cultivates a discreet allure. Laughing under his thick white and gray beard and clear eyes on the day of the award, the 60-year-old journalist initially reacted with his simple words: ” Got a call from Norway, I turned it down believing it was a mistake. Even the guards in front of the entrance to Novaya Gazeta, this newspaper so often threatened, searched and attacked, seemed disoriented in the light autumn air that blew in Moscow on this October day, facing the mass of microphones and cameras set up for an impromptu press conference, in a few hours , at the foot of the newspaper building, in the city center of the Russian capital.

Journalism is a profession hardly compatible with life

Under the huge portraits of Anna Politkovskaya displayed on the facade – the newspaper commemorated the day before the 15 years of the assassination of the journalist whose sponsors have never been identified – Dmitry Muratov had dedicated his prize to the six assassinated collaborators of his newspaper. ” Journalism is a profession hardly compatible with life “, He had declared.

Incisive and biting feather – he was keen in his early days to Novaya Gazeta a column entitled ” Rating of the lie “ where he recorded the lies of the officials – also a field reporter, Dmitry Muratov covered, often on the front line, the beginnings of the first war in Chechnya before very quickly taking the editor-in-chief of the newspaper in 1995. Shaken by the murders and threats, he had at one time considered leaving his post.

Yet under his leadership, this newspaper with a modest audience – less than 100,000 copies and 18.4 million monthly visitors to the site in a country of 143 million people – and read mainly by the country’s liberal elite , has received many prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. The media has also multiplied the resounding investigations on many sometimes taboo, often delicate subjects: the rise of Vladimir Putin, the corruption of the elites, the management by the police of hostage-taking in a theater in Moscow in 2002 and Beslan in 2004, extrajudicial executions and the hunt for homosexuals carried out in Chechnya, or Wagner’s mercenaries and their abuses …

If we refuse democracy, we accept war

Dedicated, talented, courageous “, According to the spokesman of the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov, who had welcomed the announcement of the Nobel, Dmitri Mouratov was also warned by the Russian president himself:” This price is not a shield against a possible classification “foreign agent”. A few weeks later, the now tri-weekly and its editor-in-chief received a total fine of 132,000 rubles (around 1,600 euros) for failing to mention this qualifier in articles for the organizations mentioned.

Novaya Gazeta co-founder and editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov at the newspaper’s premises on October 7, 2021, in Moscow. © AP – Alexander Zemlianichenko

In a media landscape where the media are, overwhelmingly, either under direct or narrow control, either repressed and classified ” unwanted or ” foreign agents “, Novaya Gazeta is one of the rare exceptions. Its editor has already promised to help anyone who has been tagged with that latest infamous qualifier.

On the wave of repression sweeping the media, NGOs and ordinary citizens in Russia, Dmitri Muratov declared on Sunday, during a reception at the Norwegian embassy in Moscow: ” The situation is extremely difficult. The propaganda convinced the majority of the Russian people that democracy was harmful and that it led to collapse. “Thursday in Oslo, he added:” Disbelief in democracy means that the countries that abandoned it will have a dictator. And where there is a dictatorship, there is a war. If we refuse democracy, we accept war.

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Dmitry Muratov, a Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner in the midst of repression