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LONDON, United Kingdom – When Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov said “let the deadline have mercy on us,” people in the room at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London had a sense that it was not just about beating the deadline to submit a story to an editor: it was something more profound, possibly and quite literally, death.
Muratov couldn’t go to the 2022 Reuters Trust Conference in London on Wednesday, October 26, “for safety reasons,” organizers said. Speaking through a video recorded at the office of the now-shut Novaya Gazeta, the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner said, “I haven’t had a chance to prepare a good speech with all the events now taking place in Russia and around it, especially those to do with mobilization of people who were rushed to the front line.”
Muratov said that since Russia invaded Ukraine, all the independent media there “have been shattered,” forcing many to flee and go into exile.
Muratov called for international funding for exiled journalists that he proposed to name after his murdered colleague Anna Politkovskaya, a Novaya Gazeta reporter who was killed in 2006. Her reporting was critical of Vladimir Putin, and Russia’s second war in Chechnya.
“It would be right to create a serious, international fund, fully transparent, with clear rules to support projects by journalists in exile,” said Muratov.
According to Muratov, 46 international media groups have left Russia, 269 have been blocked, 76 individual journalists declared as foreign agents “which in essence means enemies of the people,” he said, and 138,000 websites inaccessible “without investigation or trial.”
“Journalists of media independent from the state have become exiles. They have been pushed out of Russia. Some have been declared extremists. And some, such as, for example, an amazing investigative journalism start-up, Important Stories, were declared an undesirable organization. Their whole team had to flee,” said Muratov.
Muratov said that exiled journalists must be supported so an independent press can continue to exist. He added that the lack of an independent press “is directly related to repressions against its readers,” citing rising figures like 16,437 anti-war protesters detained, and 3,807 cases reopened for “discrediting the army,” and 244 more under criminal investigation.
Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that Muratov co-founded in 1993 with money from Mikhail Gorbachev’s Nobel Peace Prize, and one of the last independent news outlets in Russia, was shut by a Moscow court in September for allegedly incomplete documentation about a change of ownership. It earlier ceased operations due to a warning about a violation of a restriction on “foreign agents.”
‘For simply doing our jobs’
Another journalist who couldn’t be in London for the conference was Kyaw Ye Lynn, a Myanmar reporter who worked as a news fixer for international outlets under dangerous conditions of the junta rule. Organizers said Lynn had been granted asylum in the United States. Lynn won the 2022 Kurt Schork news fixer award given by Reuters.
“This is recognition of the work done by local journalists and news fixers who are barely credited for their efforts. All the stories I helped my colleagues with expose how the military regime is using systematic and brutal methods to crush the opposition and harm the civilians,” Lynn said in a recorded video.
“Although I was named for the prize, I consider it is dedicated to all Burmese journalists who are taking great risks for simply doing their jobs,” said Lynn.
According to UNESCO, there were 55 journalists killed around the world in 2021 alone, with “impunity alarmingly widespread.” Their data shows 9 in 10 journalist killings worldwide are unsolved. The Philippines is number 7 in the list of countries with the most number of unsolved journalist killings.
In his Nobel acceptance speech from Oslo in December, Muratov moved the world by saying, “I want journalists to die old.”
From Russia, Muratov now tells the world: “Let’s help those colleagues who, against all odds, continue to do their job. And let the deadline have mercy on us.” – Rappler.com