On Human Rights Day – December 10, 2021 – the Nobel Peace Prize is being awarded to Novaya gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov. This is the first time the prize has been awarded to a citizen of Russia, although it was previously awarded to Soviet citizens Andrei Sakharov and Mikhail Gorbachev.
The decision to award the Peace Prize to one of Russia’s most assiduous, pro-democracy journalists, who has led an outstanding collective of fearless and top-notch journalists at Novaya gazeta for decades, is a sign of support and solidarity with civil society in Russia and a recognition of the contributions of those who fight for freedom of speech. This recognition is particularly relevant now, when all honest journalists, human rights defenders, and regular people who refuse to remain silent about injustice, are facing repressions, being branded as “foreign agents,” and confronting the choice of leaving Russia or ending up behind bars.
In speeches made before being awarded the Nobel Prize, Muratov repeatedly raised the problem of the political persecution of the media, NGOs, and individuals deemed “foreign agents” and criticized and called for the repeal of laws that make it possible to stigmatize independent journalists and human rights defenders. Among other groups and individuals, Muratov has always stood up for Memorial:
“Memorial works to rehabilitate the victims of Stalin’s repressions. And now prosecutors are charging it with ‘violation of human rights!’ I would like to remind you that Memorial was established by Sakharov. Perhaps a monument to the late Sakharov is safer than his living, breathing project? Memorial is not the enemy of the people. Memorial is the friend of the people.”
International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center have been deemed “NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent” by the Ministry of Justice and are now being defended in court against demands for the liquidation of these vital structures, which preserve the memory of Russia’s past and fight against present-day repressions. Muratov commented that people who do not want to believe in the myths of that past are being punished, and called for all countries to repeal “foreign agent” laws. He believes that democracy and freedom of speech are the only things that can provide protection from the worst misfortunes:
“Disbelief in democracy will mean that the countries that reject it will be awarded with dictators. And where there is dictatorship, there is war. If we reject democracy, we agree to war.”