Kirill Martynov

Taming the monster through free journalism

After the editors of legendary newspaper Novaya Gazeta decided they couldn’t continue working in Russia, Kirill Martynov became editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta Europe, working from Latvia. He believes journalism shouldn’t be a heroic job. ‘What’s so heroic about looking out the window and describing what you see there? But it turns out in our situation, it’s a hard challenge with huge risks.’ 

‘It’s impossible to be a journalist is Russia these days,’ Kirill Martynov said in an interview. ‘Because the topic of the war, and its consequences for Ukraine and for Russia, is totally banned by the Russian authorities.’ Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, over 100 media and 640 websites have been blocked in Russia. More than 500 people and organisations are labelled ‘foreign agents’, which effectively means: enemies of the state. About two thirds of the ‘foreign agents’ are journalists.

During the filming of the documentary Of Caravan and the Dogs, Kirill was still deputy editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, working from Moscow. In the documentary we see how free speech and independent journalism are quickly suppressed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Roskomnadzor – the federal agency responsible for monitoring the media – issued an order stating that the media should only use official Russian sources and banned people from calling ‘the special operation in Ukraine’ an attack, an invasion or a war. Shortly after, the Russian parliament adopted a law imposing heavy prison sentences on ‘spreading false information’ about the Russian military in Ukraine, making work for independent media virtually impossible.

Now, Kirill is forced to work from exile. ‘Hundreds of professional Russian journalists with a large audience, independent people, they find themselves abroad these days just because the Russian government has imposed this kind of military censorship,’ he says. Still, he has a very clear idea about the work that he should do. As he said in Of Caravan and the Dogs, while still working in Russia: ‘The government is a monster. The task of educated people is to tame the government and chain it. If you have to work outside of Russia for that, then work outside of Russia.’

Of Caravan and the Dogs will be screened at the Movies that Matter Festival 2024, where Kirill Martynov will be a special guest.