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Moscow court revokes Novaya Gazeta’s licence to publish inside Russia

A court in Moscow has stripped Novaya Gazeta of its print media licence, effectively banning the newspaper from operating inside Russia, less than a year after its editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, won the 2021 Nobel peace prize.

Russia’s media regulator, Rozkomnadzor, had accused the publication of failing to provide documents related to a change of ownership in 2006.

Speaking outside court, Muratov said the ruling was “a political hit job, without the slightest legal basis”. He said the paper would appeal.

In a separate ruling next week, a Moscow court will decide whether to also revoke the licence for Novaya Gazeta’s website.

Novaya Gazeta is one of the country’s most important independent publications. Since it was established by Muratov and colleagues in 1993, it has investigated corruption inside and outside Russia, as well as the wars in Chechnya. A number of its journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya, have been killed since the 1990s in retaliation for their reporting.

In March, Novaya Gazeta said it would cease operations until the end of the war in Ukraine after it received several warnings from the state censor for allegedly violating the country’s “foreign agent” law.

Some members of the paper’s staff fled Russia and launched a new outlet, Novaya Gazeta Europe, published from several cities in Europe. Roskomnadzor has blocked that website inside Russia, as well.

Dmitry Muratov
Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, called the ruling ‘a political hit job, without the slightest legal basis’. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Muratov, who has remained in Russia, was awarded the Nobel peace prize last October for his efforts to support journalistic freedoms in Russia. He later auctioned his 23-carat gold medal to raise money for Ukrainian refugees. In April, he was the target of a chemical attack, believed to be retribution for his anti-war stance.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Russia has launched an unprecedented crackdown on protesters, independent news outlets and foreign social media networks. In early March, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, signed off on a draconian law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military, effectively criminalising any public criticism of the war.

With the closure of Novaya Gazeta, the Russian government has now blocked or shut down virtually all independent outlets in the country.

The move to revoke Novaya Gazeta’s licence comes days after the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was widely seen as the paper’s patron. Gorbachev famously used part of his Nobel peace prize money to help set up Novaya Gazeta in 1993.

On Saturday, Muratov led Gorbachev’s funeral procession in Moscow.

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