Russia on Friday added respected journalist and Nobel Prize co-recipient Dmitry Muratov to its list of foreign agents, a label authorities commonly use to stifle critics.
The move targeting the editor of Russia’s top independent publication Novaya Gazeta is part of a wider crackdown on respected civil society institutions that has accelerated with Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.
Muratov “used foreign platforms to disseminate opinions aimed at forming a negative attitude towards the foreign and domestic policy of the Russian Federation,” Russia’s justice ministry said to justify the decision.
The ministry also accused Muratov of creating and distributing content from other foreign agents.
“What is there to comment on? For comments, contact the Ministry of Justice”, said Novaya Gazeta’s website.
It added the foreign agents list now included 674 “worthy” people and organisations.
The label, which is reminiscent of the term “enemies of the people” of the Soviet era, adds heavy administrative constraints and requires sources of funding to be disclosed.
It also compels foreign agents to mark all publications — including social media posts — with a tag.
This put foreign agents and people sharing their content at risk of heavy fines.
The designation is part of an array of legislation the Kremlin uses to silence critics, along with the harsher “undesirable organisation” tag.
– Slain journalists –
Since launching troops to Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has stepped up efforts to stamp out dissent.
Most high-profile opponents are behind bars or in exile.
While many independent journalists are working from abroad, Muratov was recently seen in Russia.
He is part of the legal team defending his friend Oleg Orlov, co-chair of Russia’s human rights organisation Memorial.
Orlov is on trial over lone pickets against the assault in Ukraine and over an op-ed in French publication Mediapart titled “They wanted fascism, they got it”.
He was charged of discrediting the army, which is part tools Moscow uses against critics of the military operation.
Overall, thousands of ordinary Russians who protested against the Ukraine conflict have been detained.
Many high-profile opposition politicians have been jailed since the offensive began, including Ilya Yashin and Vladimir Kara-Murza.
Putin’s main opposition politician Alexey Navalny has been in prison since 2021.
Repression has accelerated during the assault in Ukraine, but the space for freedom of expression in Russia has been shrinking for years.
In 2021, when Muratov co-received the Nobel Peace Prize, he dedicated the award to Novaya Gazeta’s “fallen” journalists who “gave up their lives for their profession.”
Since 2000, Novaya Gazeta has seen six of its journalists and contributors killed, including investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in Moscow on President Vladimir Putin’s birthday.
Co-founded by former Soviet leader and another Nobel Peace laureate Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993, Novaya Gazeta is one of the few media outlets left in Russia voicing criticism of Putin.
Originally published as Russia brands Nobel winner Dmitry Muratov a ‘foreign agent’