Dmitry Muratov, one of Russia’s best-known journalists, has been added to the country’s list of foreign agents, less than two years after the Kremlin praised the principled reporting that saw him awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
Muratov, the former editor of now-shuttered liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was included in an update Friday evening to the Russian Ministry of Justice’s register of journalists, politicians and activists that Moscow claims are acting on behalf of hostile states.
The designation of foreign agent, which has been repeatedly used on critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin and opponents of his war in Ukraine, means that Muratov will have to adhere to strict rules on political activity. It also bars him from engaging in public life. Any mention of him in Russian media or social networks must reference his status.
According to Human Rights Watch, “in Russia, the term foreign agent is tantamount [to] spy or traitor,” and has been used “to smear and punish independent voices.”
The decision to accuse Muratov of being under undue influence from abroad flies in the face of the Russian state’s own previous assessment of his journalism. After Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov offered his congratulations and said the long-time editor “consistently works according to his own values, is committed to those values, is talented, and is brave.”
Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with American reporter Maria Ressa for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Since the start of its increasingly catastrophic war in Ukraine, Russia has all but eliminated the country’s independent media outlets, imposing harsh penalties for those considered to be “discrediting the Russian armed forces.”
Many Russian journalists have been forced to move abroad to continue their work. Muratov’s Novaya Gazeta was forced to cease operations in Russia in April 2022, weeks after the start of the war and has since been forcibly closed by the state, though it has continued to publish online.
Moscow has also detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich since March 29 on espionage charges, for which no evidence has been presented. U.S. President Joe Biden has branded the arrest, the first of an accredited correspondent on spying allegations since the end of the Cold War, “totally illegal.”
In August, POLITICO reporter Eva Hartog was expelled from Russia after she was refused an extension to her visa.
Earlier this week, the Nobel Foundation faced criticism from both Swedish and Ukrainian politicians after it decided to invite Russian ambassadors to attend this year’s awards ceremony.