The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta announced on Monday that it would suspend its online and print publications until the end of the military operation in Ukraine. This announcement comes as the Russian government is stepping up its pressure against critical voices.
In a statement, the newspaper, whose editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, said it had taken this step after receiving a second warning from the Russian telecoms policeman, in less than a week, for breaching a controversial “foreign agents” law.
“There is no other solution. For us, and I know for you, this is a terrible and painful decision. But we must protect each other,” wrote Dmitry Muratov, in a letter addressed to the readers of the newspaper.
The Novaya Gazeta newspaper was criticized for not having specified that an NGO mentioned in one of its articles was qualified as a “foreign agent” by the Russian authorities, as required by law.
highly watched “foreign agents”
The newspaper had received a first warning on March 22, 2022, then a second on Monday March 28. Since the start of the military operation on February 24, the sites of many Russian and foreign media have been blocked. Novaya Gazeta was the last stronghold of the free press still in operation in Russia.
The authorities have passed several laws repressing heavy prison sentences for what they consider to be “false information” about the conflict in Ukraine. The “foreign agents” law is another weapon used by the authorities against organizations or individuals critical of the Kremlin.
Those who are described as “foreign agent” are required to present themselves as such in each of their publications, including on social networks. And the media that mention them must also specify this each time.
Prosecutions for breach of this law can have serious consequences. In December, Russia’s most respected NGO, Memorial, which was labeled as such, was banned for forgetting to specify this status in certain publications.
Founded in 1993, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper enjoys a high reputation for its investigations into corruption and human rights abuses in Chechnya. This commitment cost the lives of six of its collaborators, including the famous journalist Anna Politkovskaïa, assassinated in 2006.