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5 Sep, 2022 12:51

Russian court revokes license of long-running liberal newspaper

The ruling against Novaya Gazeta was requested by the media watchdog Roskomnadzor
Russian court revokes license of long-running liberal newspaper

The media license of Novaya Gazeta, one of the oldest liberal papers in Russia, has been revoked by a Moscow court. The outlet suspended its print version in late March, saying it would not resume circulation while Russia conducts its military operation in Ukraine.

On Monday, the Basmanny district court in the Russian capital granted a request by media regulator Roskomnadzor to revoke the paper’s license. The watchdog’s case against the publication was based on its failure to file paperwork after a change of ownership in 2006.

The newspaper argued that the reshuffle was not significant enough to warrant a mandatory submission of its new corporate charter, as required by Russian law.

Novaya Gazeta was originally fully owned by its newsroom, but in 2006, it sold a 49% stake to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then-lawmaker Aleksandr Lebedev, best known as part-owner of prominent British newspapers the Evening Standard and The Independent.

The two men pledged to invest their personal wealth into the paper’s operation. The deal was widely believed to be motivated by politics rather than business interests, when it was announced, as both Gorbachev and Lebedev were outspoken supporters of the opposition media in Russia.

The newspaper suspended circulation in late March following two notices of violation sent by Roskomnadzor over the paper’s refusal to use the “foreign agent” label for organizations branded as such by the government.

Novaya Gazeta had previously criticized the Russian labeling rules for foreign agents, calling them an assault on journalism. In March, the paper declared its intention to publish online only, as long as the Russian military campaign in Ukraine continues.

Part of the newsroom has since split to start a new Europe-based project, which shares the name of the newspaper, but is formally not connected to it.

Dmitry Muratov, Novaya’s editor-in-chief, who has been part of the project since its creation in 1993, was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”.