Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov has been awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
Together with the Philippines’ Maria Ressa, journalist and editor of embattled independent news outlet Rappler, Muratov won the accolade for his efforts “to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Muratov, born in 1961, is editor-in-chief of Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has been instrumental in investigating corruption and human rights abuse across the country. After starting his career at Komsomolskaya Pravda in 1988, Muratov set up Novaya Gazeta alongside 50 other colleagues in 1993 as “an honest, independent, and rich” newspaper. The new outlet was formed with help from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who gave part of his own 1990 Nobel Peace Prize money to fund reporters’ salaries and buy computers for the office. The newspaper went on to carry out revelatory reporting on subjects that included the Chechen Wars, “troll factories” funded by the Russian government, and the 2004 Beslan school siege. But the outlet’s work has come at a heavy price. Since 2000, six Novaya Gazeta reporters have been killed, including Anna Politovskaya, who was infamously gunned down in her own apartment building in 2006.
The prize follows a new wave of repression against independent journalism in Russia, which has seen several media organizations declared “foreign agents”. In March 2021, Novaya Gazeta itself was the target of an attack when an unidentified chemical substance was left at the entrance of its offices in Moscow.
“Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy,” the Nobel Peace Prize statement says. “He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism. Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.”
Muratov, meanwhile, said that he didn’t expect to receive the award. “I’m laughing. I didn’t expect this at all. It’s madness here,” Muratov said in an interview with Telegram channel Podyom shortly after the announcement.