Novaya Gazeta may face closure in “extremism” dispute

Novaya Gazeta may face closure in “extremism” dispute

22 July 2015

Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s last independent newspapers, could face closure after receiving its second government warning within a year.

The newspaper plans to appeal the second warning, issued by Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor on the grounds of “extremism”. If it loses the appeal, Novaya Gazeta could be forced to close, as the authorities can by law order the closure of any media outlet that has received two extremism warnings within a 12-month period.

The second warning was issued when the newspaper published an excerpt from a new book by Vasily Avchenko, author and Novaya Gazeta’s correspondent in the Far East, containing an expletive. Several letters in the expletive were replaced with asterisks, but Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky insisted that the offensive word “could clearly be read”.

A law signed by President Vladimir Putin in May this year bans the use of foul language in the media and the arts, including literature.

Novaya Gazeta‘s editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov affirmed that his newspaper would contest the latest warning in court, arguing that literary works should be treated differently with regard to the law.

“We believe that in works of literature — we are not speaking about journalistic creations here — various deviations from the general norm are possible,” Muratov stated.

Roskomnadzor’s spokesman maintained, however, that the agency has not yet decided to begin the procedure for the closure of Novaya Gazeta.

“Despite the fact that we do indeed have the right to turn to court with the demand that Novaya Gazeta’s registration be terminated, we, as a controlling organ, naturally always use our rights sensibly,” said Mr Ampelonsky.

Novaya Gazeta is not the first to fall foul of the expletives law. Notably, the ban affected Russian director Andrey Zviyagintsev’s Oscar-nominated film Leviathan, which had difficulty in obtaining a screening permit in Russia. The Ministry of Culture eventually deemed the film to be acceptable only for adult audiences, and ordered that its expletives be bleeped out.