Quote for the Week. Dmitry Muratov: “As governments continually improve the past, journalists try to improve the future.”

Week-ending 10 December 2021

Ill. Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach.

But journalism in Russia is going through a dark valley. Over a hundred journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders and NGOs have recently been branded as “foreign agents”. In Russia, this means “enemies of the people.” Many of our colleagues have lost their jobs. Some have to leave the country. Some are deprived of the opportunity to live a normal life for an unknown period of time. Maybe forever… That has happened in our history before. On September 29 next year, we will mark 100 years since the “philosophers’ ship” sailed from St. Petersburg to Stettin in Germany, one of many in a row, when the Bolsheviks chased out almost 300 prominent intellectuals from Russia. Inventor of the helicopter Sikorsky, inventor of television Zvorykin, philosophers Frank, Ilyin and Pitirim Sorokin were aboard the “Oberbürgermeister Haken” going to exile. Among them there also was the great thinker Nikolai Berdyaev. Like others, he was allowed to bring his pajamas, two shirts, two pairs of socks and a winter coat. This is how the motherland said goodbye to its great citizens: Leave your things behind but take your brain with you. The same thing is happening with journalists and human rights defenders today. The “philosophers’ ship” has been replaced by the “journalist plane”. This is of course a metaphor, but dozens of journalists are leaving Russia. But some have been deprived even of this opportunity. […] “Are not you afraid?” is the most common question my colleagues get. But this is their mission. As governments continually improve the past, journalists try to improve the future.

‘Dmitry Muratov. Nobel Lecture,’ The Nobel Prize, 10 December 2021. Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa were jointly awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize ‘for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.’


The Nobel Prize, 10 December 2021: Antidote against tyranny. “Honorable members of the Nobel Committee, honorable guests! On the morning of October 8, I received a phone call from my mother. She wondered how things were going. -Well, Mom, we’ve got the Nobel Prize … -That’s nice. Anything else? … Look here, mom I’ll tell you everything,.”

Amnesty International, 10 December 2021: Responding to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov collecting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard said: “For the first time in almost a century, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to journalists, highlighting the bravery and outstanding achievements of media in an increasingly polarized world where facts and truth are under relentless attack. Amnesty congratulates Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov on this prestigious award. It is a momentous day for these champions and defenders of human rights and press freedom. We hope it inspires others to follow in their path and speak truth to power.”

The Guardian, 5 December 2021: For Muratov, too – speaking in a rare interview over Zoom on a flying visit to New York last month – there is no doubt that the award is symbolic not just of an existential threat to press freedom but of a world on the brink. “I think our world has stopped loving democracy and has started reaching for dictatorships. Journalists are like independent media. They’re the defence line between dictatorship and war.”

RSF, 9 December 2021: The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to two journalists in Oslo, Norway on 10 December, the Philippines’ Maria Ressa and Russia’s Dmitri Muratov, who together embody all of the threats to journalism. The worst of which is murder. More than 1,600 journalists have been killed in the past 20 years, 46 of them in 2021 alone, according to data gathered by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

RFE/RL, 9 December 2021: Authoritarian leaders are undermining the media and democratic institutions at the peril of peace, Dmitry Muratov, a joint winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, said on December 9 ahead of the award ceremony in Norway’s capital. Muratov, editor in chief of independent Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta, and Maria Ressa of the Filipino news website Rappler won the award “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said when announcing the prize in October. “Lack of belief in democracy means that, with time, people turn their backs on democracy, you will get a dictator, and dictatorship leads to war,” Muratov told a news conference in Oslo.

The Guardian, 10 December 2021: Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel peace prize on Friday, at a ceremony that Ressa was almost blocked from attending because of travel restrictions related to legal cases filed against her in the Philippines.

Other news:

The Moscow Times, 10 December 2021: Giving the infamous “foreign agent” status to newspaper Novaya Gazeta, a rare independent outlet in a Russian media landscape largely under state control, would be “stupid,” its editor-in-chief said Friday, hours before receiving his Nobel Peace Prize.

RFE/RL, 5 December 2021: Human rights and media-freedom watchdogs are calling on Russia to stop prosecuting media lawyers and allow reporters to receive proper legal assistance as the authorities are “stepping up their harassment” of journalists via the controversial “foreign agents” law. Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued the pleas this week after one of the lawyers defending Ivan Safronov, a jailed investigative reporter charged with treason, fled Russia late last month.

RFE/RL, 6 December 2021: Amnesty International has launched an online petition demanding the immediate release of RFE/RL freelance correspondent Vladyslav Yesypenko, who has said he has been tortured while in detention in Russian-occupied Crimea since March. Yesypenko, a dual Russian-Ukrainian citizen who contributes to Crimea.Realities, was detained on March 10 on suspicion of collecting information for Ukrainian intelligence. The father of one daughter had worked in Crimea for five years reporting on the social and environmental situation there before being detained.

Meduza, 6 December 2021: Blogger Yuri Khovansky, currently in pre-trial detention on charges of justifying terrorism, penned an open letter from jail, where he has been since June. In the text, Khovansky says investigators threatened him with serious prison time when he refused a plea bargain. Officers also allegedly promised “problems” for his girlfriend, Maria Nelyubova (who spoke about this before). Khovansky says the authorities suggested that they would plant drugs on her. Meduza is publishing a translation of Khovansky’s letter. 

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