A True Russian Patriot Speaks
When asked his dream, he answered: “To see no more of my reporters killed.”
When asked why he continues to risk his own life, he replied:
Because we think that a newspaper is a service provided to a fair people. Because I don’t want the world to think that my country is a country where the gene of Stalin will live forever. There is a question why today in official text books in Russia – on a number of official sites, including the ministry of defence – Mr Stalin is called ‘an efficient state manager’, when what they would like to say is that efficiency in management is the same as violence. Why would the ruling elite do that in Russia? What they probably mean to say, and what they try to make us believe, is that the state, the government, is the supreme value of our life, the sun, the god. And corruption is the special profession attached to this god.
When asked about the motivations of those who govern Russia, he answered bluntly: “They want to rule as Stalin did and live as Abramovich does.”
That was Dmitri Muratov speaking, editor in chief of Russia’s last real newspaper, the mighty Novaya Gazeta. He was speaking in Helskinki, Finland two weeks ago, attending International Press Institute convention and receiving the organization’s Free Media Pioneer award on his paper’s behalf, dedicating it to its four reporters who have been brutally murdered in the past decade for writing critically about Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. Domnikov. Shchekochikhin. Politkovskaya. Baburova. Each name is an indictment of the Putin Kremlin. In our issue today, we republish the full text of his acceptance speech to the IPI convention.
Here’s what the IPI said about Russia in its most recent review of world press freedom:
Europe’s worst press freedom offenders continued to decline in 2007. In Russia, freedom of speech took ever more knocks in the run up to the elections, and the country proved that it remains a dangerous place to practice journalism. The death of Kommersant journalist Ivan Safranov was explained by authorities as a suicide, although family and friends remain convinced that the reporter did not take his own life. Safronov fell to his death from a stairwell window on 2 March, not long after he had claimed that he was facing criminal investigation for information he planned to publish revealing state secrets.
Russia is one of “Europe’s worst press freedom offenders.”
In our last issue we carried a long report about NG from the pages of Der Spiegel, including an interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the paper’s leading defenders and supporters. The paper’s reporters and editors have been struggling heroically, literally risking their lives every day, to get out the truth about their country and to show the world that not all Russians support a return to the darkest days of Soviet atrocity and failure.
Der Spiegel told a horrifying tale of neo-Soviet repression and violence, and yet the story is heartening as well, because it shows valiant, patriotic Russians fighting back regardless of the cost against the rise of that repression. And surely, Mr. Muratov stands right at the forefront of this group of patriots. His daring rhetoric linking Putin to Stalin is exactly what Russia needs more of, and his example is a shining one for all Russians to follow.