Moscow (TIP): Russian journalist and Nobel Peace laureate Dmitry Muratov is auctioning his Nobel medal for Ukrainian refugees, distraught at the eradication of independent media in his country, where he says fewer and fewer people support Moscow’s military campaign.
Muratov is the bear-like co-founder and long-time editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper critical of the Kremlin that was itself established in 1993 with money from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev’s Nobel Peace Prize. For years it defied tightening restrictions on dissenting media, but in March it finally suspended its online and print activities after it became a crime – punishable by 15 years in jail – to report anything on the conflict that veered from the government line.
“My country invaded another state, Ukraine. There are now 15.5 million refugees … We thought for a long time about what we could do … and we thought that everyone should give away something dear to them, important to them,” Muratov told Reuters in an interview.
Auctioning his golden medal would mean he shared in some way in the fate of refugees who had lost their mementoes and “their past”, he said.
“Now they want to take away their future, but we must make sure that their future is preserved … the most important thing we want to say and show is that human solidarity is necessary.” Muratov’s medal is being sold by Heritage Auctions on June 20, World Refugee Day, with the support of the prize committee.
It had called the award to Muratov and Maria Ressa, a journalist from the Philippines, an endorsement of the right to free speech that was in jeopardy around the world.
Muratov dedicated his prize to six Novaya Gazeta journalists murdered for their work, among them some of the highest-profile critics of President Vladimir Putin.
He lamented the lack of a free media, and the severity of the state’s crackdown on protest.
“The absence of real freedom of speech, of real exchange of opinions, of real freedom of expression is leading to the fact that people have no choice. They just have to believe what the state propagandists tell them,” he said.
“There are no free media outlets. Rallies are actually banned, including in the regions. For any statement, an administrative or criminal case is initiated. (Reuters)