The last major independent media outlet operating in Russia suspended its reporting Monday after a warning from the government communications regulator, marking another blow to free speech in the country.
The editors of Novaya Gazeta announced that the newspaper had received its second warning from Roskomnadzor for not clearly labeling an organization in an article a “foreign agent” as designated by the Kremlin, and were therefore “suspend[ing] the publication of the paper online, on social media and in print until the end of the ‘special operation on the territory of Ukraine.’” Novaya Gazeta received its first warning for the same reason on March 22, with its editors arguing it now risked having its media license revoked.
Since the war in Ukraine began on February 24, Moscow has passed legislation criminalizing the spreading of “fake news” about the state’s activities abroad, and has banned prominent media organizations in a bid to keep a tight lid on information about the war and retaliate against Western countries prohibiting Kremlin-backed Sputnik and RT media outlets.
Roskomnadzor has already revoked the licenses of other domestic outlets including Meduza, Mediazona and TV Rain — while the Kremlin has also banned numerous social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Foreign media, including Bloomberg and the BBC have also suspended reporting out of the country amid concerns for their journalists’ safety and security.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev helped set up Novaya Gazeta in 1993, and it was the only main independent newspaper still critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the country. Its chief editor, Dmitry Muratov, who was awarded last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, told readers Monday that pausing publication had been an “awful and difficult decision” to make.