Arthur Christory / Gavel Media

A Conversation With Dmitry Muratov: Is There hope? Short Answer Is No

Dmitry Muratov is not what one would expect from a renowned Nobel Prize winning Russian journalist. One might expect a serious man, given the state of his country and publication back at home, who would lack a warm smile or a sense of humor. Instead, you are met with a joyous demeanor, a twinkle in his eye and many jokes to be told, booming laughter filling the room.

Seated on stage with Charles Sennott and a clever Russian translator, Muratov had a conversation on truth, propaganda, the state of journalism today and hope for the future (or lack thereof, from his perspective). 

They were the picture of traditional journalism, both Sennott and Muratov referring to themselves as “old school” throughout their conversation. Speaking as old friends, rather than distant colleagues who speak different languages, brought a sense of comfortability to such a serious topic.

Muratov focused on the relationship between propaganda and journalism, a war within itself. Propaganda is winning in Muratov’s eyes, hence why the people of Russia are not anti-Putin with everything going on with Ukraine.

Muratov leaned back in his chair and made the comparison between propaganda and radiation. Said in Russian first, perfectly translated moments later, Muratov stated “I would compare propaganda with radiation. Propaganda affects everything; the closer you are the more you are affected and the sicker you are.”

After this profound and poetic answer, Muratov broke the tension and laughed with Sennott, as they pivoted the conversation from propaganda in Russia to that of journalism in America. Sennott asks Muratov if he has any “words of caution” for the American journalists who may be headed towards a propaganda driven state with the polarization in America.

Facing both the audience and Sennott, Muratov discusses what he believes to be the issue in the U.S. regarding journalism: objectivity and professionalism. 

“Sometimes there is an illusion for the sake of the bigger goal, for the sake of this bigger good,” says Muratov “you can give up professional standards and move from journalism of facts to the journalism of popular opinion. This is a catastrophe. Once you lose the standard, the standards for the profession, it leads to no one believing anyone anymore.” 

Muratov took issue with the lack of objectivity and reporting, and the move towards opinion writing. The two journalists debated the role of objectivity as Muratov threw the questions back to Sennott. Watching them talk was like watching old friends reuniting.They disagreed while laughing and reaching out to touch each other’s arms. You would think they were speaking the same language, when in fact they were not. But they were speaking the language they both understood best: the state of journalism in the broken world we live in today. 

The conversation swiftly moved towards solutions. When asked by an audience member if Muratov thinks Putin can be brought down by the Russian oligarchy, Muratov shakes his head and gears up to disappoint the crowd. 

Gesturing to Sennott, referring to the organization he started called The GroundTruth Project, Muratov states, “​​next to me is a person who created an organization that is digging for truth, that is trying to locate the truth.” Muratov pauses before continuing, “and I can't give you hope in front of this person.”

The crowd murmurs after this bleak statement, looking to each other and back to Muratov. If the Nobel prize winning journalist whose mission is to bring the truth to the people doesn’t believe there is hope, then what is the solution?

“I’ve already said a number of naive things,” Muratov says with a chuckle, followed by the collective laugh from the crowd. “It is the anti-war movement that will force the leaders of the states to state their position.” Muratov pauses again to think about how to conclude, glancing up a the ceiling before continuing. “Today, publicly many leaders say one thing, and then real politics come into play and they sign agreements on fossil fuels, fossil fuels with Russia as they have always done.” 

The crowd is silent as he continues. 

“This disaster will not leave anyone. It will touch every single corner of the Earth. It is important to give up the principles of real politics.” 

A heaviness fills the room, yet Muratov somehow still leaves the audience with a laugh: “that will be my optimistic, empty salute.” 

Super indecisive, couldn't decide what to write besides "Loves Harry Styles", but I promise that isn't my only personality trait

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