New York, June 29, 2023—Russian authorities should stop silencing outlets by labeling them as “undesirable,” and let the independent news outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Wednesday, June 28, the Russian general prosecutor’s office declared the activity of the outlet’s legal entity, BDR Novaja Gazeta-Europe, “undesirable” and a “threat to the foundations” of Russia’s constitutional order and security.
Organizations that receive the undesirable classification are banned from operating in Russia, and anyone who participates in them or works to organize their activities faces up to six years in prison and administrative fines. The designation also makes it a crime to distribute the outlet’s content or donate to it from inside or outside Russia.
“Russian authorities’ relentless persecution of Novaya Gazeta Europe runs as deep as the outlet’s commitment to independent, authority-defying reporting, for which it has paid a steep price,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in Amsterdam. “Russian authorities should immediately overhaul their regulations on ‘undesirable organizations’ and stop banning any reporting that contradicts the government’s narrative.”
The prosecutor’s office accused Novaya Gazeta Europe of distributing materials of organizations labeled extremist or undesirable and said it “creates and disseminates tendentious information” detrimental to Russia’s interests, with its main topics including “false information” about rights violations, the war in Ukraine, and war crimes.
Novaya Gazeta Europe is based in Latvia and was launched in April 2022 by journalists who previously worked at the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, many of whom fled following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and subsequent criminalization of “false information” about the Russian military.
In late April 2022, Russian state media regulator Roskomnadzor blocked Novaya Gazeta Europe’s website. In September, the Russian Ministry of Justice labeled Kirill Martynov, Novaya Gazeta Europe’s chief editor, a “foreign agent.”
“Having failed to completely stamp out every independent voice and outlet in the country or force us to stay silent, the Kremlin has now labelled us as criminals,” the outlet wrote in a statement on Wednesday. The undesirable status “is meant to threaten journalists, writers, and readers” and is “the last tool that the Kremlin can use against us.”
Novaya Gazeta Europe will continue to publish, according to that statement, which encouraged Russian readers to keep reading their reporting but to “be careful, remove any links to our articles from their social media accounts and refrain from quoting us in the future.”
Since Novaya Gazeta was founded in 1993, at least five of its journalists and contributors have been murdered in connection to their work. July 3, 2023, will mark the 20-year anniversary of the murder of Yuri Shchekochikhin, then the outlet’s deputy editor and head of its investigative department.
“Those who did that are still in power in my country. But I’m still a journalist too. And I will continue,” Ekaterina Glikman, deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta Europe, told CPJ via messaging app, noting that Shchekochikhin was her first boss. “Novaya is unstoppable. We will see who lasts longer.”
In 2007, CPJ honored Dmitry Muratov, Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief, with its International Press Freedom Award, and in 2021 he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his work. In September 2022, Russian authorities stripped Novaya Gazeta of its print and online licenses.
CPJ’s call to the Russian general prosecutor’s office was not answered.