Nobel Belongs To Journalists Who Were Killed At Work
THE WEEK|October 31, 2021
Interview Dmitry Muratov, Editor-in-chief, Novaya Gazeta
Ajish P. Joy

Six of your colleagues were murdered for their work. The Nobel Prize announcement came just a day after the 15th anniversary of your colleague Anna Politkovskaya’s assassination.

A/ The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously. I think that this prize should belong to those who risked their lives and were killed doing their jobs. Their life and death are the real fight for freedom of speech. I am not the beneficiary of this prize, but my outstanding colleagues are.

Q/ After Politkovskaya’s murder, you said you wanted to close down the Novaya Gazeta, and that no story was worth dying for.

A/ I did want to close down the newspaper, because I failed to protect my employees. I put Anna at risk, but this is a joint guilt. Yet, I am not the only one who runs the newspaper—we have an editorial board, which makes the decisions.

We argued a lot, we quarrelled, but nobody supported me. Our journalists said that we had no right to close down the newspaper. So, now we must conduct the investigation on our own and continue doing what Anna did—help people for whom the Novaya Gazeta is the last hope.

Q/ Do you remember the initial days of the Novaya Gazeta? What about the support you got from Mikhail Gorbachev and Aleksandr Lebedev?

A/ I met with Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev in 1989, when I was working at Komsomolskaya Pravda, the largest circulated newspaper in the Soviet Union. I had gone to interview him. Our friendship began there.

Gorbachev was the first shareholder of the Novaya Gazeta—he bought the first ten computers for us, as early as in 1993—spending a part of the money from his 1990 Nobel Prize. The first mobile phone was presented to our editorial office by his wife, Raisa Maksimovna Gorbachyova. I consider Gorbachev to be an outstanding person, politician and an advocate of peace.

Now, of course, I am proud that we have something in common [with the Nobel Prize]! At the editorial office, they joke that I am only the second one [with the prize]. Still, the Novaya Gazeta is the only periodical in the world with two Nobel Prize winners. We consider Gorbachev to be our friend, founder and shareholder. He holds 10 per cent of our shares.

As for Aleksandr Lebedev, we got to know each other in the early 2000s, when he was a deputy of the state Duma. Later, he became a businessman, and an oligarch. In 2006, he bought out 49 per cent of our shares (39 per cent on his own and 10 of Gorbachev; 51 per cent of the shares always belonged to the staff).

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