MOSCOW – A court in Moscow on Monday upheld a motion from Russian authorities to revoke the license of a top independent newspaper that for years has been critical of the Kremlin, the latest move in a months-long crackdown on independent media, opposition activists and human rights groups.
The ruling against Novaya Gazeta, Russia's most renowned independent newspaper, comes amid Russia's grinding military campaign in Ukraine and the Kremlin's effort to silence critics of what it calls a “special military operation.”
Dmitry Muratov, Nobel Peace Prize-winning editor-in-chief of the newspaper, called the ruling on Monday “political” and “not having the slightest legal basis," and he promised to contest it.
Roskomnadzor, Russia's media and internet regulator, petitioned the court to revoke Novaya Gazeta's license, accusing it of failing to submit the newsroom charter to authorities on time.
Novaya Gazeta announced March 28 that it was suspending operations for the duration of what it referred to in quotation marks as “the special operation” in Ukraine, the term that Russian authorities insist media must use for the military action in Ukraine.
Its team, however, launched a new project, Novaya Gazeta Europe, from abroad, criticizing the operation in Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbor.
Days after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled parliament approved legislation that outlawed alleged disparaging of the Russian military or the spread of “false information” about the country’s military operation in Ukraine.
Dozens of Russian independent media outlets were banned as a result, while other announced halting any reporting related to Ukraine.
The U.N. Human Rights Office condemned the ruling in a statement Monday.
“The judgment against Novaya Gazeta is yet another blow to the independence of Russian media whose activities have been further compromised by legal restrictions and increased state controls imposed following” Russia’s military action in Ukraine, spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement.