'I’d have given it to Navalny, but f**k you, I don’t feel any guilt,' Russian editor Muratov says after being awarded Nobel Prize

The long-serving editor of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, has reacted to his unexpected Nobel Peace Prize award win by paying tribute to jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny and to slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

However, perhaps tired of being harrangued over whether he deserved the recognition, he unloaded on one questioner during an appearance on radio station Echo of Moscow, on Friday evening.  "Am I to blame for the fact that the award was received by the newspaper and not by Navalny? F**k you. I do not feel any guilt"

He also used his appearance to condemn the recent branding of numerous Russia-focused media outlets as "foreign agents." "To declare people as foreign agents is shameful for me. This should not be done," he insisted. "Censorship of media and the killing of media amounts to disbelief in the people."

In a statement released earlier in the day, the editor of the liberal Russian newspaper said that, despite being “truly happy and surprised” at the decision, he believes that he “is not a worthy beneficiary.” “If I were on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, I would have voted for the person who had the best odds,” he said. “I’m referring to Alexey Navalny.”

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Russia after being treated in Germany for what he and his doctors allege was a poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok. The activist is now serving a three-and-a-half-year term behind bars for breaching the conditions of a suspended sentence handed down for fraud.

Muratov, who was given the award for what the organizers described as “defending freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions,” also paid tribute to “journalists who died for their profession.”

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Editor-in-Chief of Novay Gazeta Dmitry Muratov. © Sputnik / Vitaliy Belousov
Long-serving editor of Russia's Novaya Gazeta Muratov wins 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for ‘efforts to safeguard freedom of expression’

“Yesterday we marked 15 years since [Politkovskaya] was killed,” he said. “Since Nobel Peace Prizes are not awarded posthumously, I think that [the committee] came up with a way to give it to Anna Politkovskaya through me.” The writer and academic was shot to death in 2006 in the elevator of her apartment building. Russian investigators insist there was no evidence of state involvement in the incident and have said it could prove to be a contract slaying.

On Friday, chair of the committee Berit Reiss-Andersen announced that the prize would be awarded jointly to Muratov and Filipino investigative reporter Maria Ressa in honor of their commitment to free speech, which was described as “a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

“Novaya Gazeta’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media,” the statement concluded.

The Kremlin has already sent its praise to Muratov over his win. “We can congratulate Dmitry Muratov,” said presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. “He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave.”

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The United Nations has commented on the award committee’s focus on press freedom, saying that it was a “recognition of the importance of the work of journalists in the most difficult circumstances.” Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani also said that “throughout the years we’ve seen an increase in attacks in journalists during the Covid lockdown as well.”

However, some people have been hesitant to praise the decision, with a number of pro-Navalny supporters expressing their dissatisfaction over his humanitarian efforts going unrecognized, after the campaigner himself had been tipped as a possible winner.

Leonid Volkov, who has served as Navalny’s chief of staff, tweeted that “as a champion of human rights, I certainly support your integral right to vomit” because of the move.

Both Muratov and Ressa will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the December 10, on the anniversary of the death of the founder of the awards, Alfred Nobel.

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