Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov and Philippines journalist Maria Ressa were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021. In the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the two journalists were given the award “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” Muratov, who is the editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, spoke with Meduza special correspondent Svetlana Reiter shortly after the announcement. Here’s what he had to say.
Did winning this prize come as a surprise for you?
Absolutely. I was arguing with [Novaya Gazeta correspondent] Elena Milashina, when I got several calls from Norway. You see, finishing the argument with Milashina was more important to me than answering international calls. And as it turns out, the calls were to inform me [about the prize]. I missed this “exciting moment” when you’re told that you’re a laureate before it’s announced to everyone else. In the end, it was the head of our press office Nadya Prusenkova who announced this to me.
What did she say?
“In thirty seconds you’ll find something out.” And I replied: “I don’t have time, I’m arguing with Milashina.”
Did you know that you had been nominated?
I didn’t know anything, of course not. Yesterday, we opened our Anna Politkovskaya museum, it’s called “Memory Storage Room No. 307.” Yesterday we planted tulips in the garden. Yesterday we gave books to people who came to visit our newsroom for the [fifteenth] anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s death. And then we had drinks.
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Will you also have drinks today?
No, not today.
You’ve said many times that this prize isn’t yours.
It’s not mine. I’m not the right beneficiary, there are real ones. It’s just that the Nobel Peace Prize isn’t awarded posthumously, it’s awarded to living people. Obviously, they decided to award it to someone living, having in mind Yury Shchekochikhin, Igor Domnikov, Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasia Baburova, Stanislav Markelov, and Natalya Estemirova (Journalists who worked with Novaya Gazeta who were killed or died under mysterious circumstances).
In my opinion, the great founders of our newsroom Nuraz Mikeladze and Zoya Eroshok are also [among] our dead. Strictly speaking, this is their prize. I won’t deny it — this prize also belongs to our newsroom, 130 Nobel laureates walk its halls.
Are you afraid that accepting the Nobel Peace Prize will somehow be used to label you as a “foreign agent”? Are you going to turn down the award on that basis?
Of course not. We’re not [Boris] Pasternak. I can say one thing for sure — this prize will be distributed by the editorial board of Novaya Gazeta, not by me. It’s absolutely certain that some of this money will go to the Circle of Kindness Foundation. We made great efforts to create this foundation. And we really want these amazing, great children, who have been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy and other rare diseases, to receive part of this money from us to make their lives easier. And I’m sure the editorial board will approve of this decision.
You said that with the help of this award you’re going to support Russian journalism. How are you going to do that?
We don’t know yet. This is the general opinion of the newsroom, which we will discuss early next week, okay?
Does it annoy you that on social media, people have already begun to write that this award “was received by the Presidential Administration, the Mayor’s Office, and Peskov”?
I didn’t see [any] such nominees. I don’t give a damn what they write, I don’t read it. This prize belongs to my lost colleagues, who gave their lives for people, who fought against dictatorship, who stood up for freedom of speech. And I absolutely do not care what they write [on social media].
What did you feel when you found out about the award?
Nothing in particular. When we opened the museum yesterday, I said to the bookmakers that in my opinion, they were right when they said that the prize would go to Alexey Navalny. If I were on the Nobel Committee, I know who I would’ve voted for. I believe Alexey Navalny deserved it for his courage. But he’s got everything ahead of him.
We won’t give up Because you’re with us
I’m with you, Meduza
Abridged translation by Eilish Hart