Russia’s state censor has filed administrative cases against the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and its editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, for supposed “fake news stories” about coronavirus outbreaks in Chechnya and inside the Russian Army. Muratov told the website MBK Media that the investigation concerns a report by Valery Shiryaev about COVID-19 spreading in a military unit and a story by Elena Milashina about infections rising in a small area of Chechnya.
The newspaper deleted Shiryaev’s first story after it received instructions from Roskomnadzor (Russia’s federal censor) and local military officials. Milashina’s report, meanwhile, is now unavailable to readers, pending a court ruling. Moscow judicial records show that there are four administrative charges filed: two against Novaya Gazeta and two against Muratov himself.
In April 2020, Roskomnadzor filed identical charges against Kommersant Ufa editor-in-chief Natalia Pavlova, after the newspaper reported on burial grounds for coronavirus victims. The story was later deleted on Roskomnadzor’s orders. The chief editor of another local news outlet was fined 60,000 rubles ($815) for reporting the same information about preparations for mass fatalities, which the spokesman for Ufa’s mayor “unofficially” confirmed to journalists.