Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief to step down while challenging ‘foreign agent’ label in court

Veteran Russian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov is to temporarily leave his position as Novaya Gazeta’s editor-in-chief while he mounts a legal challenge against his recent designation as a “foreign agent” by Russia’s Justice Ministry.

“Muratov is in strong disagreement with the Justice Ministry’s decision and will be filing a lawsuit,” the Novaya Gazeta newsletter said on Monday, announcing that current deputy editor-in-chief Sergey Sokolov would become acting editor-in-chief.

Muratov was declared a “foreign agent”, a term that can be applied to anyone the government decides is subject to “foreign influence”, on Friday. Foreign agents have various financial and professional restrictions placed on their activities.

The Ministry of Justice justified its decision by saying Muratov had “used foreign media to promote opinions that are aimed at forming a negative attitude towards Russia’s domestic and foreign policy”.

Reacting to the news that Muratov had been named a “foreign agent”, Nobel Foundation chairman Berit Reiss-Andersen said it was “sad that the Russian authorities are now trying to silence him. The accusations against him are politically motivated”.

In October 2021, Muratov and Filipino journalist Maria Ressa were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace". In his acceptance speech in Oslo, Muratov described journalism as an “antidote to tyranny”.

Novaya Gazeta stopped updating its website and printing new editions in March last year due to the censorship Russia introduced following the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Much of Novaya Gazeta’s staff subsequently left Russia and established Novaya Gazeta Europe in Latvia.

The newspaper’s remaining staff in Russia began updating the Novaya Gazeta website shortly afterwards, prompting the country’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor to rescind Novaya Gazeta’s media licence and block access to its website in Russia.

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