8 October 2021
Radio Svoboda speaks with Aleksei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, who has called the decision of the Nobel Committee [to award the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Dmitrii Muratov] “an absolutely amazing event.”
In my opinion, what they’ve given Muratov is a lifebelt. Maybe he doesn’t need it, but this is high recognition of his worth. Muratov is an impressive individual. I am lucky enough to have been friends with him for thirty years. We came onto the scene virtually simultaneously. When Novaya gazeta was first founded, its first computer system was stolen. The Glasnost Defence Foundation, which had then been going for just under two years, campaigned to find money to replace the computer system. I have known Muratov ever since, and we have been friends all that time.
I have worked a lot for Novaya gazeta, and so I know Muratov as an editor. I have seen him act in various capacities – as an editor, a director, just as a team leader. He was always a leader, because he always had very firm views about what was going on. He rarely and only very reluctantly abandoned his principles, and then only if there were very serious reasons to do so. We have followed different paths but, even though he is twenty years younger than I, I consider him my older brother.
What role does Novaya gazeta play in Russian journalism today, or rather, in what is left of it?
First, it is remarkable that it survives at all, because Novaya gazeta’s circulation is falling, as can be seen from the published circulation data. Novaya gazeta makes no secret of its advantages and disadvantages in this respect. Recently, I have begun rather to dislike the newspaper and its contents. I think it has become too assertive, lacking subtlety and open-mindedness. A newspaper does absolutely not need to have its own point of view on events, but rather it should reflect what is happening in all its various guises. But Novaya gazeta has its own point of view and remains true to it. Maybe its views are sometimes too harsh, maybe they are sometimes too wooden in this respect, but this is always its position. This newspaper has a position. And that is something rare these days – it is very rare!
But surely this is a remarkable reflection of the merits of the journalists, not just of Dmitry Muratov, but of the whole newspaper, of the entire publication…
But Muratov is his newspaper. You don’t understand Muratov’s connection with his newspaper! He brought them all up, he passed them all through his heart.
Translated by Elizabeth Teague