Putin warns Russian journalist not to hide behind Nobel Prize: 'You won't protect him if he breaks the law'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Dmitriy Muratov, the editor-in-chief of a Russian newspaper, would not "protect" him from being labeled a "foreign agent" if he broke the law.

Muratov, editor-in-chief of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, won the prestigious award jointly with Filipino investigative journalist Maria Ressa for their efforts in promoting freedom of expression.

The recognition of Muratov's efforts came as dozens of journalists and a number of prominent independent media outlets were designated this year as a "foreign agent."

A term with Soviet connotations compels individuals or organizations to reveal their sources of foreign funding and tag all their publications, including those on social media, under penalty of fines.

"If he does not violate Russian law, if he does not give a reason for declaring him a foreign agent, then he will not be," Putin said at a forum in Moscow. 

But he warned the journalist against trying to hide behind the Nobel Prize and "using it as a shield" to violate Russian law and "draw attention to it." 

Muratov was among a group of journalists who founded the Novaya Gazeta newspaper in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union. 

The newspaper became one of the few remaining independent voices in a tightly controlled media landscape.

Kremlin opponents say the authorities are cracking down on independent media, forcing many foreign agents and others to close. 

After receiving the award on Friday, Muratov said he was not sure how it would affect "censorship".

On the same day, the Ministry of Justice added nine more people to its list of “foreign agents.”

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