The elimination of all independent media and critical journalism in Russia has “come to its conclusion” after the war in Ukraine, leaving citizens completely exposed to propaganda and the Kremlin with total control over the information sphere, Nobel Peace Prize-winning-editor Dmitry Muratov told the IPI World Congress 2022.

Speaking at the opening session at Columbia University in New York on September 8, the editor-in-chief of independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta told the crowd that media reporting on the reality of the conflict has been systematically criminalized and censored and journalists branded “enemies of the state” for their coverage, with many fleeing the country.

The editor-in-chief was speaking three days after a court in Moscow stripped Novaya Gazeta of its print media licence, effectively banning one of the country’s most symbolic newspapers from operating and adding yet another nail in the coffin of the independent press in Russia.

During a wide-ranging conversation with award-winning author and New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen, Muratov lamented that the crackdown on domestic dissent by the Kremlin – including against his own newspaper – had effectively led to the “genocide” of the few independent media outlets that remained in the country.

“In Russia, the genocide of media has come to its conclusion. Russian citizens are left alone in the face of government propaganda”, he said. “138,000 websites have been closed. Most of the independent media platforms … are being pushed out of the country and labelled ‘enemies of the nation’. Over 380 media outlets have simply ceased to exist.”

The editor cited the recent 22-year prison sentence handed down to Ivan Safronov on treason charges as an example of the ongoing threats posed to journalists who remain within the country. He also drew attention to the plight of reporter colleague Andrey Zayakin, who faces nine years in prison for donating to the foundation of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Muratov’s speech came in the wake of the death of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who famously helped found the newspaper in 1993 with the winnings from his Nobel award. Paying tribute to Gorbachev, a personal friend whose funeral procession Muratov led in Moscow on September 3, the editor said: “He gave us the gift of 30 years of a world without the threat of nuclear war”.

Muratov, who was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last October for his decades-long efforts to support press freedom in Russia, stressed that independent journalists continuing to work from outside the country needed more support in the “fight for truth” and called for the establishment of an international foundation to support journalists working in exile.

IPI’s World Congress 2022 runs from September 8 until September 10. Click here for more information about the programme and full list of speakers.