Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year. He shares the prestigious award with Maria Ressa, another campaigning journalist from the Philippines.
The pair received the award for their efforts to defend freedom of expression in their respective countries, and the Nobel committee called them “representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal.”
Mr. Muratov is the co-founder and editor of Novaya Gazeta, which has stood up for press freedom and freedom of speech in Russia for decades. Six journalists who worked for the newspaper have been reportedly murdered in connection with their investigative work, shining a light on corruption, crime and other alleged abuses.
In an exclusive interview with UN News this week, he explains what he will be doing with his award money, why he loves Novaya Gazeta, and what he thinks about press censorship.
UN News: We planned to have this interview the night before, but I was told that you were with Mikhail Gorbachev at that time. Can you tell us about it?
Dmitry Muratov: We talked, he joked. For example, he spoke view about Novaya Gazeta’s mission: he commended us for “rarely letting the truth down”. I admit, we are not perfect, and we have had our mistakes.
ONU News: Are you happy with such an evaluation of your job?
Dmitry Muratov: Yes, I am. Very.
ONU News: I read on the Internet that Novaya Gazeta, when it was being created, was partially financed by the Nobel Peace Prize money received by Mikhail Gorbachev himself.
Dmitry Muratov: He told me yesterday that, in fact, that was not the Nobel Prize money. Rather the money they got by publishing Raisa Gorbacheva’s book [former wife of Mikhail Gorbachev, who died in 1999] “I hope”. They donated all of that to buy computers for Novaya Gazeta. But I prefer to think that some prize money was there, too.
Since this is a Peace Prize, then I believe it should contribute to this cause.
ONU News: How will you spend the monetary award? Do you already have plans?
Dmitry Muratov: Let’s start with me, OK? I will not take and will not receive, even a single cent of it. This is out of the question.
Since this is a Peace Prize, then I believe it should contribute to this cause. We held an editorial board meeting where we decided how to distribute the Nobel Prize money.
So, it will be donated to a health foundation that helps journalists, to a foundation that supports children with spinal muscular atrophy and other serious rare diseases, a part would go to the Anna Politkovskaya Prize Foundation, and, of course, a part would go to the children’s hospice in Moscow, the Vera Foundation, and the Dmitry Rogachev Clinic, where children with leukemia are treated. That’s it!
ONU News: You have repeatedly said that you regard the Prize as an award to the entire staff of Novaya Gazeta and, especially, to the ones who are gone. Anna Politkovskaya was killed 15 years ago.
Dmitry Muratov: Yes, exactly 15 years on October 7th.
ONU News: Don’t you think that the prize has come late?
Dmitry Muratov: Right on time, I think.
ONU News: Congratulating the Nobel Peace Prize laureates the UN Secretary General said, I quote: “No society can be free and fair without journalists who are able to investigate wrongdoings, bring information to the citizens, hold leaders accountable and speak truth to power”. What do you think?
Dmitry Muratov: Here’s what I think: this is an absolutely accurate idea, and I would like to build on it. You see, the UN Secretary General is talking about censorship.
What is censorship? It is a manifestation of distrust to your own people. Those who introduce censorship do not trust their people. In different countries of the world, many individuals who, of course, consider themselves independent, simply do not believe their people.
They think that they are the ones to determine what the people should read, watch, see and listen to. Such lack of trust to the people is the most dangerous thing. People must be trusted.
ONU News: What would you like to tell our listeners about your newspaper? How do you survive these days?
Dmitry Muratov: Well, first of all, thanks to the people we have. We have absolutely amazing staff – these are the stars of Soviet and Russian journalism as well as people who will become the stars of modern journalism. Some write essays, others, for example, do big data research.
The combination of both, the synergy that we have in our editorial office, people who write brilliant texts, and those who do coding and programming, who dig for impossible information, is for me the recipe for our outstanding success.
I really love this “angry crew of kind people”.
ONU News: What do you know about Maria Ressa? Have you met?
Dmitry Muratov: I know a lot about her! She is an outstanding journalist. The first issue of the newspaper published after we learnt about the prize had an image of Maria Ressa on the front page, not our faces.
We have the highest regard for her. In the past, several members of our staff took her training courses. Today we sent her a letter, we really want to invite the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to give a lecture to the Novaya Gazeta staff and the students who will join.
She is an outstanding woman who single-handedly confronts tyranny.
[Maria Ressa] is an outstanding woman who single-handedly confronts tyranny.
ONU News: So you approve of the choice by the Nobel Committee?
Dmitry Muratov: I’m delighted. Naturally, I am also delighted that Novaya Gazeta was given the award, it is true, but I think that Maria Ressa is a brilliant choice.
I don’t know how it happened, how it all happened. We will only find out about this only in fifty years [when the Nobel Committee discloses all the information behind the nomination and selection process].
I won’t live that long to see it, though. But the fact that my name is mentioned next to hers is just fascinating!
ONU News: Do you know how will the award ceremony be held this year?
Dmitry Muratov: I received a letter this morning saying that the ceremony will be held in Oslo. But let me wrap up our conversation by saying that we would be happy to greet Maria, in our office in Moscow.