FRONTLINE: Putin vs. The Press
This film will have a special early streaming premiere on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. Stream this film on the PBS App, the FRONTLINE website and YouTube / Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Encore Thursday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2
Since the start of the Ukraine war, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government have carried out an intense crackdown on the press — banning more than 300 Russian journalists and branding them “foreign agents,” and threatening anyone who calls the Ukraine conflict an invasion or act of war with up to 15 years in prison.
Now, a new FRONTLINE documentary, "Putin vs. the Press," tells the story of one journalist and his battle to defend free speech in Putin’s Russia: Nobel prize-winner Dmitry Muratov, branded on Sept. 1 as a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin. In light of this development, the film will have a special premiere Sept. 12 on streaming platforms before its broadcast. With unique access, the film follows Muratov as he fights to keep his newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, alive and his reporters safe amid the government’s crackdown.
“If you write the word ‘war’, you’ll be shut down,” Muratov says in the documentary. “If you tell us how the fighting is going on in Ukraine, you have no right to do so. Because you must only cite the point of view of the official military authorities. This is absolutely ferocious censorship. … If we give up on democracy, we say yes to war.”
The documentary explores Muratov’s leadership of Novaya, an independent paper known for its investigative reporting: exposing the horrors of the Chechen war, the corruption of the ruling elite, and the increasing authoritarianism of modern Russia. Between 2000 and 2009, six Novaya journalists and contributors were murdered — a reality that haunts Muratov: “We lost so many people from the paper … my main task is to keep my employees safe,” he says in the documentary.
The film chronicles how Muratov sustained Novaya for years by walking a tightrope — sometimes compromising with the Kremlin, accepting funding from oligarchs, and always keeping a channel open to Putin — and how he and Novaya then became a target of the authorities’ crackdown amid the war on Ukraine.
From Muratov’s decision to auction his Nobel medal to help Ukrainian refugees, to the violent backlash that followed, to the court’s revoking of Novoya’s license to operate and Muratov’s attempts to find new ways to publish, "Putin vs. the Press" is a powerful account of a critical time for Muratov, his paper and his country.
“We’ve stayed at home, stayed here with our readers who can’t leave,” says Muratov, who is now one of a dwindling number of independent journalists still in Russia. As the war on Ukraine and Putin’s clampdown on the Russian news media continue, "Putin vs. the Press" is an essential look at Muratov’s fight, and what’s at stake.
Watch On Your Schedule:
“Putin vs. the Press” will be available to watch in full at video.kpbs.org/show/frontline, pbs.org/frontline, in the PBS App, and on FRONTLINE’s YouTube channel starting Sept. 12, 2023, at 7/6c. It will premiere on KPBS TV Sept. 26, 2023 at 10/9c.
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An Oxford Films production for GBH/FRONTLINE and Channel 4. The director is Patrick Forbes. The producers are Yelena Durden-Smith and Vanessa Tuson. The senior producer is Dan Edge. The editor-in-chief and executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. International distribution of the film is handled by Abacus Media Rights.