“If he doesn’t violate Russian law, and if he doesn’t give a reason to be declared a foreign agent, then he won’t be,” Mr Putin said on Wednesday when asked if he can promise that Muratov will not be labelled as a foreign agent.
If Muratov “hides behind the Nobel Prize like a shield in order to violate Russian law, then it means he’s doing it deliberately in order to attract attention to himself or for some other reason”, the president told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an interview at Russian Energy Week in Moscow. Everyone, regardless of their achievements, must follow Russian law, he added.
Under a controversial 2012 law targeting non-governmental organisations, Russia has designated several such bodies as well as individuals as “foreign agents”. The designation forces them to disclose their funding. In recent months, Russia has used the law to crack down on journalists and media outlets.
Muratov, however, said that he was not intimidated by the Russian government. “The state can do what it wants, but we will accept the prize, we will not renounce the prize,” he told Interfax news agency.
He added that he was not Boris Pasternak, the Soviet author who was forced to renounce the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 under pressure from the Russian government.
Muratov and Philippines journalist Maria Ressa were jointly awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression. The Nobel committee had noted their contributions towards standing up for this ideal “in a world where democracy and freedom of press face increasingly adverse conditions”.
The editor-in-chief of Russia’s top independent publication, Novaya Gazeta, Muratov dedicated the prize to six journalists of his team who had been murdered for reporting on excesses of the Russian state.
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