The Berliner Zeitung tipped us off a few days ago: Last Warning for Novaya Gazeta. “Whazzat?” you may ask. Oh, it’s just about the only remaining Russian newspaper worth taking seriously. By this point Vladimir Putin has had 10 years to snuff out independent voices among the country’s government and media, so that now only a handful of outlets remain which still resist singing along with the party line. There are actually none such when it comes to TV broadcasters (naturally, the medium with the greatest reach by far); on the radio there is still Echo Moscow; and among newspapers the most prominent independent name has been Novaya Gazeta (“new newspaper”), which among other things had been the employer of Anna Politkovskaya, the investigative reporter murdered four years ago in a still-unsolved case.
At least up until now. But now BZ reporter Daria Afonina (definitely a Russian female name) tells us how the paper just received it’s “first warning” from the Ministry for Communication for allegedly spreading “fascist propaganda” through a piece it published back in January on extreme-right nationalists from an organization whose name translates to “The Russian Way.” A second warning means that the paper will have to shut down.
What Editor-in-Chief Sergey Sokolov thinks he sees in this development – if not sheer stupidity from a rogue bureaucrat, always a possibility – is an effort by the authorities to finish Putin’s work by rubbing out such independent media voices as remain. But he also vows to appeal any close-down order to “Strasbourg,” presumably meaning to the European Court of Human Rights located there (of which Russia is a member, not that that means there is much to hope for any such move).
Those still interested in the paper – while it is still a going concern – should realize that it does have an accompanying English-language version. Don’t expect a full-blown English translation of the Russian website, by any means, as the English material is much scarcer and generally out-of-date. When I visited today the left side of the homepage was dominated by an interview with Russian President Medvedev entitled “Medvedev’s declaration, 2009 year” which, yes, bore the dateline “18.04.2009.” But the tone of the questioning directed at the head-of-state was refreshingly challenging, and the rest of the slim pickings available on that homepage similarly showed why the state apparatus of which he is the head may not be too fond of the newspaper. There were namely two pieces on the Politovskaya murder case (“‘The State is showing a complete lack of interest in solving the murder of our mother,’ Vera and Ilya Politkovsky [yes, her children],” and “Second time around: The Politkovskaya murder case.”