Russian journalist to auction off his Nobel Peace Prize medal to help Ukrainian refugees

Russian journalist to auction off his Nobel Peace Prize medal to help Ukrainian refugees

Independent Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov says he will have his Nobel Peace Prize medal auctioned off to raise money to help Ukrainian refugees. Muratov made the announcement on Wednesday in Novaya Gazeta, the independent newspaper that he helped found in 1993. He has been its editor-in-chief since 1995.

Novaya Gazeta and I have decided to donate the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Medal to the Ukrainian Refugee Fund. There are already over 10 million refugees. I ask the auction houses to respond and put up for auction this world-famous award,” Muratov wrote. He urged others to help “refugees, the wounded and children who need urgent treatment what is dear to you and has a virtue for others.”

As to what needs to be done right away, Muratov called for a cease-fire, prisoner exchanges, releasing the bodies of the dead, providing humanitarian corridors and assistance, and supporting refugees.”

As to the value of a Nobel Prize medal at auction, here are several examples:

  • John Nash’s 1994 Nobel Prize in economics medal was sold at auction in 2019 for $735,000. Nash, who made pioneering advances in the field of game theory, was the subject of the 2001 biopic, A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe. The proceeds went to the John Nash Trust established after his death in 2015.
  • The medals for the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine awarded to both James Watson and Francis Crick for the discovery of DNA both went to auction. Crick’s sold for $2.27 million in 2013, and his family told the auction house handling the sale that the proceeds would go to the Francis Crick Institute for medical research in London.

Watson’s medal sold for $4.75 million in 2014. It was bought by a Russian billionaire who returned the medal to Watson, saying, “In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist has to sell a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable.” 

Muratov shared the 2021 Peace Prize with Maria Ressa, an investigative journalist in the Philippines. The citation by the Norwegian Nobel Committee said the award was “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

Immediately after Vladimir Putin launched the invasion, Novaya Gazeta was openly defiant. Muratov courageously posted a video message on its website titled “No to War” in which he declared: “Only the anti-war movement of the Russians can save life on this planet.” He also published that issue of the newspaper in Russian and Ukrainian.

“We do not recognize Ukraine as an enemy or Ukrainian as the language of an enemy,” Muratov said in a video posted on the newspaper’s website. “And we never will.”

SEE RELATED DIARY: Russian Nobel-Prize winning journalist Dmitry Murative says ‘No to War’ in courageous message.  

But then Russian authorities cracked down on the country’s independent media. A new censorship law was passed on March 4 that criminalized the spread of “fake” information that discredits the Russian armed forces. It threatened violators with prison sentences of up to 15 years. News outlets could not even refer to what was happening in Ukraine as a “war” or “invasion,” but could only use the Kremlin’s terminology that it was a “special military operation.” That forced nearly all independent news outlets in Russia to shut down, and many journalists fled the country lest they be labeled as “foreign agents” by the government.

Muratov called an emergency staff meeting to decide whether to shut down because it was objectively impossible to work under the condition of wartime censorship or to continue to publish with an advisory to readers that the journalists would censor themselves to abide by the new regulations. He also polled the newspaper’s crowdfunding platform—and 96% of the respondents told the paper to remain open.

The Washington Post reported:

Novaya Gazeta is technically complying with Russia’s new law, but is far from cowed — relying on visual storytelling, firsthand testimony, transparency about omissions, and implied meaning to convey the horror of the war to a Russian readership that can read between the lines.

“Listen, I am not going to shoot myself in the foot just to walk away from this information battle,” Muratov said in a telephone interview from Moscow. “When the government wants to shut us down, they’ll shut us down. But I am not going to go against the will of our journalists and our readers and turn the lights off here on my own.”

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