Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 17

The property of Novaya Gazeta is under arrest,” the website reported on June 7. Bailiffs from the Basmannyi Court in Moscow have begun to “conduct an inventory of [the newspaper’s] property and to place it under arrest.” The previous day, the No. 40 issue of Novaya Gazeta had appeared with a dramatic lead headline, “Court Bailiffs Have Appeared at Novaya Gazeta: The Publication of Our Next Issue Is Under Threat.” It thus appears that the Russian newspaper that has served as the most persistent and effective critic of the conduct of the war in Chechnya–especially in the columns of its award-winning war correspondent, Anna Politkovskaya–may be in process of being muzzled. The Basmannyi Court found in behalf of the plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against the newspaper asking damages in the amount of 15 million rubles (equivalent to US$482,000). Mezhprombank brought the suit. The paper lacks the funds to pay such an enormous fine. The chief editor of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov, observed, “By this act a political command has been carried out to remove an objectionable publication.” Igor Yakovenko, secretary general of the Union of Journalists of Russia, noted for his part: “Novaya Gazeta was the last independent newspaper on whose pages one could express a point of view which had not been agreed with the position of the Kremlin.” Yakovenko also drew attention to the fact that another major Russian newspaper had been suppressed this past week: “Just now, before our eyes, Obshchaya Gazeta has been destroyed.” The weekly Obshchaya Gazeta, like the twice-weekly Novaya Gazeta, had provided good independent coverage of the war in Chechnya.