Russia Adds Respected Journalist Dmitry Muratov to Its List of Foreign Agents
On Friday, Russia took a controversial step by adding respected journalist and Nobel Prize co-recipient Dmitry Muratov to its list of foreign agents. This label is commonly used by Russian authorities to suppress critics and dissenting voices. The move, which targeted the editor of Russia’s top independent publication Novaya Gazeta, is part of a broader crackdown on civil society institutions, coinciding with Moscow’s ongoing assault on Ukraine.
Russia’s justice ministry defended its decision, stating that Muratov “used foreign platforms to disseminate opinions aimed at forming a negative attitude towards the foreign and domestic policy of the Russian Federation.” Additionally, the ministry accused Muratov of creating and distributing content on behalf of other foreign agents.
“What is there to comment on? For comments, contact the Ministry of Justice,” said Novaya Gazeta’s website.
The publication noted that the foreign agents list now includes 674 individuals and organizations considered “worthy” of this label. This designation, reminiscent of the “enemies of the people” label from the Soviet era, imposes significant administrative constraints and requires disclosure of funding sources. It also mandates that foreign agents mark all their publications, including social media posts, with a special tag, exposing them and those sharing their content to heavy fines.
The Kremlin’s Repression Tactics
The decision to label Dmitry Muratov as a foreign agent is just one element of the Kremlin’s broader strategy to silence its critics. This strategy includes the use of the harsher “undesirable organization” tag.
Since Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has intensified efforts to suppress dissent. Many high-profile opposition figures find themselves either imprisoned or in exile. While some independent journalists continue their work from abroad, Dmitry Muratov was recently seen in Russia. He is actively involved in defending his friend Oleg Orlov, co-chair of Russia’s human rights organization Memorial. Orlov faces charges related to lone protests against the Ukrainian conflict and an op-ed in the French publication Mediapart titled “They wanted fascism, they got it.” These charges include discrediting the army, a tool frequently employed by Moscow against critics of the military operation.
Throughout the course of the Ukraine conflict, thousands of ordinary Russian citizens who protested against the intervention have been detained. Many prominent opposition politicians, including Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kara-Murza, have been jailed since the offensive began. Alexey Navalny, the leading opposition figure against President Vladimir Putin, has been in prison since 2021. Repression has accelerated during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, but the space for freedom of expression in Russia has been steadily shrinking for years.
Dedication to Fallen Journalists
In 2021, when Dmitry Muratov co-received the Nobel Peace Prize, he dedicated the award to the “fallen” journalists of Novaya Gazeta who “gave up their lives for their profession.” Since the year 2000, Novaya Gazeta has tragically lost six of its journalists and contributors, including the investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in Moscow on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday.
Founded in 1993 by former Soviet leader and another Nobel Peace laureate, Mikhail Gorbachev, Novaya Gazeta remains one of the few media outlets in Russia that dares to voice criticism of Putin’s government.