Nobel Laureate Dmitry Muratov to Challenge “Foreign Agent” Designation

Dmitry Muratov, a Nobel Prize-winning Russian journalist, is poised to mount a legal challenge against his recent designation as a “foreign agent” by Russian authorities. This development was confirmed by Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper he leads, on Monday.

Russia’s justice ministry officially included Muratov, a respected editor and co-recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, in the ever-expanding roster of individuals branded as “foreign agents.” This designation is employed by Russian authorities to stigmatize and complicate the lives of those they perceive as working against the country’s interests.

Reason for Designation:
The justice ministry cited Muratov’s alleged involvement in “creating and disseminating material (produced by) foreign agents” and utilizing it to propagate unfavorable opinions regarding Russia’s foreign and domestic policies on international platforms. Notably, Muratov had previously sold his Nobel medal at an auction to aid Ukrainian child refugees.

Novaya Gazeta’s Response:
Novaya Gazeta, renowned for its investigative reporting that has occasionally scrutinized the Kremlin, government policies, and top officials, announced that Muratov would temporarily step aside from his role as editor-in-chief to challenge the “foreign agent” label through legal means.

In a statement, Novaya Gazeta affirmed, “Muratov is suing because he vehemently disagrees with the Ministry of Justice’s choice. The editorial board is suspending Dmitry Muratov from his position as editor-in-chief throughout the legal processes at his own request. Editor-in-chief Sergei Sokolov has been named in an interim capacity.”

Freedom of Expression Concerns:
The newspaper contended that Muratov had become a target for his opinions and beliefs, a situation that runs contrary to constitutional guarantees regarding freedom of thought and speech.

Expanding “Foreign Agent” List:
The Russian justice ministry has considerably expanded its list of “foreign agents” since the commencement of what Moscow terms its “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022. This designation has been used to brand individuals and organizations that publicly criticize or question the war.

Implications for Journalists:
Journalists labeled as “foreign agents” are required to include a disclaimer about their status on every piece of work. They face heightened official scrutiny and financial checks. Media outlets bestowed with the same label have experienced the withdrawal of support from Russia-based funders and sponsors.

Novaya Gazeta’s Response to Previous Legislation:
It’s worth noting that Novaya Gazeta suspended publication in 2022 in response to legislation imposing severe penalties for discrediting the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine. Following this, many of its journalists regrouped to launch a new publication in Latvia.

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