The L.I.P. at Montana State University

Dmitry Muratov: How Censorship Breeds War

October 24, 2023 MSU Leadership Institute Episode 4
The L.I.P. at Montana State University
Dmitry Muratov: How Censorship Breeds War
Show Notes Transcript

Recently the Leadership Institute brought 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and award-winning journalist Dmitry Muratov to MSU. He gave an incredible master class and lecture, leaving us all with a lot to think about. Today you are going to hear some of the most influential moments from the master class, held with only 30 selected students. But before we get into that, a bit more on Dmitry. For decades he has stood up for freedom of speech, integrity, and justice. He is the co-founder and editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s premier source of independent journalism. Novaya Gazeta is known for it’s investigations into the Russian government. 6 of their journalists have been killed along the way with Mr. Muratov also having been attacked on several occasions. After receiving his Nobel prize, he auctioned it off to fund the gazette and the rest went to supporting Ukrainian Refugees from the war with Russia. As TIME magazine put it when they named him one of their 100 most influential people of 2021, “Some heroes show moments of bravery; Dmitry Muratov has shown a lifetime of bravery.”

Dmitry Muratov: How Censorship Breeds War Episode Transcript 

Views, thoughts, and opinions from guests on the Leadership Institute podcast belong solely to them  and do not necessarily reflect the views of Montana State University.  

From the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, welcome to the Leadership Institute podcast, a show with front row access to the brightest minds on campus and experts from around the globe who share with us leadership inspiration and insights. I'm Lindsey, a student associate at the MSU Leadership Institute and your host.  

Recently, I had the privilege of organizing an incredible event with the Leadership Institute where we brought in 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and award -winning journalist Dmitry Muratov to MSU. He gave an incredible masterclass and lecture, leaving us all with a lot to think about. Today, you're going to hear some of the most influential moments from the masterclass held with only 30 selected students. But before we get into that, a bit more on Dmitry. 
For decades, he has stood up for freedom of speech, integrity, and justice. He is the co -founder and editor -in - chief of Novaya Gazeta, Russia's premier source of independent journalism. Novaya Gazeta is known for its investigations into the Russian government. Six of their journalists have been killed along the way, with Mr. Muratov also having been attacked on several occasions. After receiving his Nobel Prize, he auctioned it off to fund the Gazette and the rest went to supporting Ukrainian refugees from the war with Russia. As Time Magazine put it when they named him one of their top 100 most  
influential people of 2021, some heroes show moments of bravery. Dmitry Muratov has shown a  lifetime of bravery. Joining him in our podcast and masterclass was Russian-English interpreter, Tatyana Hay. Ms. Hay has over 20 years experience in professional interpreting and grew up in  Ukraine. You'll get to hear more about her childhood and how her hometown of Mariupol has changed.
 These two together were such a dynamic duo on stage. You would have thought they'd been working together for months rather than just a few hours. 

Starting off the question strong, we dive into Mr. Muratov's career. Looking back on your career, what would you do differently, if anything?  

Tatiana: I am forced to tell you the truth. I am forced to tell you the truth. In our newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, six journalists died.  

Most of you know Anna Politkovskaya.  These were young people.   

And your question contains my great fault. I think if we were to be just a little smarter, just a little  more cautious, perhaps at least some of these journalists could have been saved.  

And all these years later, I have come to a conclusion that even the best, very best material, best  reporting, the most important investigation are just not worth the life of the journalist that's put in.  So, we are at a conflict. Those journalists who want to do dangerous things and investigate some most risky subject matters. And me, their editor, who just wants them to post some cat pictures on the Instagram instead.  As of now, they are winning.  

Lindsey: What motivates you in your team?  

Tatiana: Well, first of all, in the context of the war in Ukraine, you always have to think about those who have it much worse than you do.  

The Ukrainians are having a much harder time right now than we do.  

So, it's just not the right time to think about your own troubles, your own problems, the  
persecutions. The fact that we got shut down on February 7th. We're thinking about something  different. We're thinking about how can we give assistance to those who are suffering in this war.  

A portion of our journalists are forced to do the work of our newspaper while in exile. In order not to be found guilty for violating the censorship of military law currently active in Russia.  So, our family, newspaper family, our team has been split, separated. The second thing we came up with, and perhaps you've heard about it, in order to help the Ukrainian refugees and first and foremost the children, the refugee children, we were able to auction off the Nobel Medal.  

For one second, we were multimillionaires.  

$103 million.  

Every single penny of that $103 million went to UNICEF, which is the United Nations organization, to help the Ukrainian refugees. 450 families received assistance in form of medical, educational, and housing. And not only in Ukraine, but approximately $30 million was spent on overcoming hunger, just real hunger, in several African countries. So, what? Do you want to sell something else? Would you like to have something else to sell? 

Lindsey Do you see the paper starting again?  

Tatiana: In the current dictatorship environment, no one's going to give us willingly an opportunity to resume our work.  

Everything has been banned, all of our forms of the newspaper, online edition, digital, all magazines,  every type has been banned. But what do we still have? We still have Gmail communications, mail out.  

So, the publication comes to you in the form of an email message. 500,000 recipients. We have  YouTube. That somehow has not yet been blocked in Russia. But it's going to.  

I mean, it's just a matter of time. By the way, since it’s right now practically illegal to be a journalist in the sense that it means to be a journalist is in Russia, it’s just banned as a profession. Lots of journalists went to YouTube and the government invests a lot of money into YouTube, which you could tell that the competition between the state-owned journalists who own YouTube and the independent ones has definitely been decided on paper, independence wise.  

When the competition is honest and true propaganda has taken place it has been won by independent journalists completely. That’s a law.  
That's what we're going to do. YouTube, Telegram channel, Telegram, messenger platform, and  mail. Also, half of our staff is working on our out -of -the -country office, Novaya Gazeta Europe.  


Lindsey: What changes to Russian society have accompanied the invasion? 

Tatiana: It's quite a serious question. Russia has been torn apart. You could say it's a new invasion.  

A split took place within the nation. It's basically a hidden form of the civil war.  

Young people about your age, anywhere from 18 to 35, 40 years old, are radically against the war.  

They don't want to murder. They do not want to be murdered.  

About a million left the country. These are young experts, specialists, mathematicians, engineers,  people who know how to handle data.   

I do not understand why they have to be victims of repression, including financial consequences. All  these people are trying to avoid is to kill others and to be killed.  


The older generation is the chunk of the population that supports Putin. This is his electorate. The older people are the product of propaganda.  

Tens of thousands of newspapers and radio stations are influencing the older generation.  

All 12, and that's all that there are, 12 federal channels, 24 -7 are broadcasting their radiation, radiating the minds of the population.  

So what did Putin's government accomplish? In order to ease the propaganda's job, they shut down all independent media in the country.  

300 independent media have been shut down, including ours, Novaya Gazeta, which was shut down on February 7. Thousands of journalists are forced to leave the country. They have immigrated.  

Many of them have been announced to be enemies of the nation, of the state. The actual terminology is foreign agents or undesirables. Practically, propaganda can only survive when it's in a monopoly.  

We have a monopoly for Gazprom, the state, federal -owned energy company. And for propaganda,  there is a monopoly there as well. Sometimes God has a sense of humor. For example, Gazprom is the one who owns some of the largest media holdings. And when a European consumer wants to warm up his soup, he is giving the money while doing so to Russian propaganda when using Russian gas.  

So the split in the society has taken place and propaganda is the new religion.  

In order to enable propaganda's work, just about all oppositionists, vocal advocates against the government, have been jailed.  

The famous oppositioner Navalny has been jailed for a long time. This is how he looks now [Mr. Muratov shows the crowd an image of Navalny] . He lost half of his body weight.  

There is an endless list of reasons to jail someone. One illegal thing to do is to out loud say the term war. You are able to say military operation but not war. That's bad.  

A young student your age from Tyumen used chalk to write on the blacktop and then five dots with the first and the last letter that indicate the word war.  

They wanted to jail her and she said I didn't mean war; there is a type of fish that starts and ends with the same letters as the word war. The first court acquitted her but after the appeal by the prosecution she was jailed.  

I'll also show you for the New Year celebration in the editorial office of Novaya Gazeta we decided to put the ornaments on the Christmas tree. So we got that fish and painted it. We were giving them out to the readers and sold them on our online store--it was super popular.  


And the parliamentarian Gorin was jailed for seven and a half years for refusing to hold a peaceful competition of children's artwork and he used the word war saying that such competition during the war isn't appropriate. Because he used the word war, he is now doing seven and a half years in jail.  

21,000 individuals have been criminally charged. 

187 cases are for discrediting of the Russian army. 

Over 240,000 sites and webpages have been shut down.  

That's why my friends’ free speech is mutually exclusive with war. When there is no free speech there will be war and the war is impossible when there is free speech. If there is freedom of speech there is no war  

And in order to start a war you have to take away the freedom of speech from people and take away alternate sources of information.  

Lindsey: Now we move more into questions focused on the war with Ukraine starting with one of the students who was in the master class showing us his impressive  Russian. 

Student: My question for you, do you see Russia getting any freer in the years to come? Do you see the path forward for a freer Russia? 


This is a very serious question, I personally believe I know a little and I trust the generation that is now 20, 25, 30 years old. I have no hope of anything except the current generation of 20 -30 years old. This generation wants to become a professional. They’re very empathetic. 

They look at the state borders as their personal borders. 

Contrary to Putin's generation and my own generation this generation is absolutely tolerant to any gender and diversity.  

This generation is extremely tolerable to any gender expression. They want to live on a clean planet with a normal climate and they are ready to work for it and not just sit back and hope and wait for something to happen. Take a look at the volunteer movement around the world just how much it has grown. 

I think the current generation, the generation that I’m referring to, is the best one that humanity has ever seen. 

They will not allow someone to deprive them of liberty, freedom. 

This generation does not allow others to manipulate them. 

And I will say something that is very important for me personally. 

The generation of dictators, Putin's generation, those who started this war they are seeking for their ideal in the past. 

In the past wars in the past empires, 

In some old past achievements. 


But the whole idea is that the new model for life should be built and found in the future, not in the past. Your generation is gearing their lives connecting it to the future.  

But the generation that supports the dictators finds their happiness in the past only. 

I am counting on dictators dying before you do and that means that death is on the side of democracy so the change of power. 

Lindsey: Finally, we are finishing this episode with a heartfelt story from Tatiana. the incredible interpreter. 

Tatiana: I would like to have hundreds of prayers by Ukrainian children and then what I would like to have is all digital giants all the social networks, all of the bloggers, the influencers, every national radio, and TV stations begin their programs with those prayers. I want them heard, I want them displayed, I want them broadcasted. 

What's important to get across to every person is that a concrete specific life of this little child is in your hands. That's what media is for. That's in that sense each one of us is media. 

Artists, friends of mine, they do what's called added reality or additional reality. 

Two of the people in this room are from the city of Mariupol 

Tatiana: I have such a hard time pronouncing that city I don't know why. I know why. His parents were born there [referring to student in the room] and I was raised in Mariupol.  

It has been devastated. What did these artists do? They took photos of the streets of peaceful cities: New York, Berlin, Brugge, St. Petersburg. They put images of Mariupol's buildings in the peaceful streets of these whole cities so that people would understand what it is to be bombed. 

So what these artists have done they took the illegal images on the streets, the devastated, blown up streets and inserted them into the pictures of main cities, New York, Berlin all types of cities so people could see and relate and see what it would look like in your city if this happened there. Think about turning your art into anti-war art. 

Dictators have weapons, you have talent. They don't have talent. 

Lindsey: That was the master class with Dmitry Muratov, Russian journalist and Nobel peace prize winner alongside interpreter Tatiana Hay.  


And this was the Leadership Institute Podcast from the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman.   


I’m your host Lindsey Frishmuth. 


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