How exactly does a newspaper editor win a Nobel Peace Prize and live to tell the story?
First, you survive a war, and then you break your own news to everyone with a headline like this, along with a photo of the newsroom on the newspaper’s website:
“The whole Novaya Gazeta and all those who worked and work there. Alive and dead. This is their price.
The editor in question is Dmitry Muratov, who share the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who has been arrested several times and still faces false charges from a repressive government in the Philippines.
The Peace Prize is accompanied by a gold medal and a share of 10 million Swedish kronor ($ 1.14 million).
Muratov’s ordeal was life or death. He has lost six of his news staff to assassination since he co-founded Novaya Gazeta (New Journal) in 1993.
The newspaper’s ownership group includes Mikhail Gorbachev, the former President of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, who used part of the proceeds from his 1990 Nobel Peace Prize to subscribe to the foundation of an independent newspaper in Russia.
Speaking in Russian on Moscow radio after the Nobel Prize was announced on Friday, Muratov said: “The persecution of journalists deployed in Russia is, in my opinion, disbelief towards the people. The authorities seem to believe that the people themselves will not understand it. The authorities are sure that they alone should determine what people need to watch, listen to and know, and what not. “
The announcement of the Nobel Prize came 15 years and one day after the murder of one of Muratov’s investigative journalists, Anna Politkovskaya, 48, born in New York in 1958 and shot dead in her apartment building in Moscow on October 7, 2006.
She was the author of “Putin’s Russia: Life in a Failed Democracy” a personal account of what she decried as brutality of a mafia state. Known for her reporting on the “holy war” that began in 1999 when Islamist fighters declared Chechnya an independent state, Politkovskaya recounted in the book the kidnappings, murders, rapes and torture of the people in Chechnya by the Russian army and the repression against others by the regional government.
Muratov paid tribute to the memory of Politkovskaya at a ceremony in the offices of his newspaper on the eve of his Nobel Prize. A video posted by the newspaper on Politkovskaya praised his pursuit of justice when crimes go unpunished.
Politkovskaya’s murder did not stop the newspaper’s coverage of the Chechnya unrest, and the flashback has not stopped.
In March, a chemical sprayed outside the newspaper’s offices prompted the International Press Institute to publish a story with the headline: “Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta target of further attacks / Authorities must condemn all attacks and threats against the newspaper, including by Chechen officials.”
Berit Reiss-Andersen, President of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said when announcing the price, “Despite the murders and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov refused to give up the newspaper’s independent policy. He has always championed the right of journalists to write whatever they want about what they want, as long as they uphold the professional and ethical standards of journalism.
Muratov, inundated with sympathizers, took the time on Friday to answer a few questions in an exclusive interview for Poynter.
The following questions have been edited for clarity and additional context. Muratov’s answers are textual, although translated from Russian, which is not always easily translated.
Obtaining a Peace Prize: What Would Peace Look Like for Russia Today?
Stop fighting with the whole world, stop seeing everyone as enemies, complete history with Ukraine – it is an independent country, we can only have humanitarian interests. Stop thinking that patriotism is a war with others, not love for the people you live with.
You are the seventh Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 119 years who lists “reporter” as the job title, even if you are all from different countries. Do you see any parallels? For the record, you are following Elie Ducommun, Suisse, 1902; Ernesto Teodoro Moneta, Italy, 1907; Alfred Hermann Fried, Austria, 1911; Sir Ralph Norman Angell, England, 1933; Carl von Ossietzky, Germany, 1935; and Tawakkol Karman, Yemen, 2011.
There is no parallel in the story. I do not believe it anymore. History does not repeat itself today. Karl Marx’s phrase, “First as a tragedy, then as a farce,” does not work either. We create our own story every day.
Gallup published a poll this week with the headline: “Americans’ Confidence in the Media Falls to Second Lowest on Record.” In Russia, television remains the main source of information for people, although polls show that trust in the medium has fallen by 25% over the past decade. Meanwhile, trust in news websites like yours has been shown to have tripled over the same period. How do you plan to gain the trust of your readers? What advice would you give to journalists facing a lack of confidence?
I heard an old story about a child (taking notes) during WWII. He divided the comments page into three parts:
- I saw it myself
- I heard
- I suppose
This is how professional journalists should work.
Unfortunately, we have a lot of media based on what they suggest. They don’t see, they don’t listen to sources. Suppose and guess. This is why we trust the media in general less.
The professional media in Russia are working under great pressure today. To be a good journalist now that means you have to combine ‘(data) journalism’ and ‘field journalism’.
(Note: Muratov coined a colorful term other than “data” that echoed Walter Cronkite’s observation of what it takes to be a great journalist – a rock-solid posterior to sit in a chair for hours on end. .)
What we call “(data) journalism” is working with data through document analysis. Working in the field means communicating with initiates and being where events take place. Those who combine these two approaches are trustworthy.
How are you going to spend the money?
Personally, I will not take anything. We had a discussion with my team. Part of the prize will go to support journalists currently being persecuted by the authorities. We will also donate to VERA Hospice Charity Fund. They are the first hospice in Russia. And some will certainly go to the fund for children with “orphan diseases”. We’ve been covering this topic for two years.
Oksi Lantt, multimedia producer and innovative educator based in St. Petersburg, Russia, founded Silamedia provide training to Russian journalists on multimedia communication and interactive education, storytelling and creative thinking. She is a member of the Academic Council of the Media Communication Program of the Moscow Higher School of Economics.
Buck Ryan, professor of journalism and director of the Citizen Kentucky Project at the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky, has followed trends in journalism in Russia for the past decade. He directed the narration of Maestro Concept seminars for russian journalists, including investigative journalists and students and faculty in journalism schools across multiple time zones. In 2014, Ryan co-wrote an article, “Civic court on arms: in Russia, with love for young voters” with a senior lecturer at the Lomonosov Moscow State University School of Journalism on the growing popularity of Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny, currently in prison and recognized by Amnesty International as “a prisoner of conscience “.