(Bloomberg) -- If Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov thought winning the Nobel Peace Prize may protect him against a sweeping Kremlin crackdown on media it considers “foreign agents,” then President Vladimir Putin offered a sobering warning Wednesday.
“If he doesn’t violate Russian law, and if he doesn’t give a reason to be declared a foreign agent, then he won’t be,” Putin told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an interview at Russian Energy Week in Moscow, when asked if the editor-in-chief of the independent Novaya Gazeta, would avoid being named a “foreign agent” after winning the Nobel.
If Muratov “hides behind the Nobel Prize like a shield in order to violate Russian law, then it means he’s doing it deliberately in order to attract attention to himself or for some other reason,” Putin went on. People must abide by Russian law “regardless of any accomplishment,” he said.
The Nobel Committee awarded Muratov and Philippines journalist Maria Ressa the prize on Friday “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression,” the first time it’s been given for journalism since 1935. Muratov dedicated the Peace Prize to four of his journalists who he said had been killed “defending people’s right to freedom of speech,” as well as a lawyer and rights activist who’d worked with them.
Russia declared nine more journalists as “foreign agents” later the same day, bringing the total to nearly 50 since July, under a law that forces publications to post the label on all news reports and meet strict financial disclosure rules or face prosecution. Several independent media outlets including Dozhd TV and the Meduza news site have also been named as “foreign agents.” The law potentially covers any journalists and media who get money from overseas, including grants and prizes.
Putin rejected criticism of the moves, saying Russia is protecting its political system from external influence.
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