Note by the Saker: I asked for this article to be translated into English NOT because I like or, even less so, endorse Reitschuster or, even more much less so, Muratov (whom I totally despise). What is interesting here is that German VERY mainstream and doubleplusgoodthinking journos (hence his idiotic views about the “Putin regime”) now had to seek “journalistic asylum” in Russia. I find that both rather interesting and, frankly, rather funny. Please do not focus on his hallucinations about Russia or his political views, but rather appreciate the irony of it all. Thank you!
How I now get journalistic asylum from Moscow
translated from German by Ana Maria Araya
Nobel Peace Prize winner makes me Berlin correspondent
In the face of all the attacks from colleagues, and especially from those I thought were friends, my faith in solidarity in my profession has suffered greatly. I am now, all the more touched by a moving act of solidarity among colleagues – from Russia.
For many years, I have had a professional friendship with Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta in Moscow. The connection with his deputy, Andrei Lipsky, is even closer: “We have a kindred spirit”.
In the past, I often helped Muratov and Lipsky in difficult situations. We got through a lot together. Even very difficult moments, such as the murder of Muratov’s and Lipski’s colleagues. For example, in 2008 in Berlin. I wrote to a good friend in a letter at that time:
“I was expecting the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov was just in Berlin, as a guest for a joint event, when the news of the brutal murder of his lawyer and one of his female journalists arrived. Muratov, whose newspaper Politkovskaya also worked for, wanted to cancel the trip immediately – but the editorial staff and Gorbachev, his friend, asked him to travel to Germany now and inform the people. I will never forget his face after arriving. ‘Boris, I have to close my newspaper, I can’t expose any more people to the risk of being killed,’ he said with tears in his eyes – blaming himself partly for the killings. Those were terrible, moving hours we spent together in Berlin. Hours that will never leave your mind. And which go to the substance.”
I will never forget how Dima, this bear of a man, lay in my arms with tears, literally seeking support. I sat with him in his room at the Steigenberger Hotel on Los-Angeles-Platz in Berlin until well after midnight. I encouraged him: “Dima, you mustn’t give up! People like you are important now! When Russia turns away from the paths it has taken, it will be people like you that the country needs! People like you are the conscience of the nation, to whom later generations will look back and find an answer to the question of why so many kept silent.” I used – without wanting to equate the situation in any way – Stauffenberg and his helpers as an example. Told how important they were to the wider story.
Times are changing. Muratov received the Nobel Peace Prize in the fall, is now world famous. One of the most important champions of freedom of the press in the world. And so it was natural for me to turn to Dima when the Federal Press Conference excluded me under – in my eyes – outrageous circumstances. I feel just as comfortable in Russian as I do in German, and I have also worked for “Novaya” in the past. So what could be more natural than to apply to Muratov as a Berlin correspondent? A discreet request for journalistic asylum and protection, so to speak.
Because it’s one thing to exclude a freelance journalist with his own blog from the Federal Press Conference. It is another to kick out a correspondent of the most important critical Russian newspaper, whose editor-in-chief has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to press freedom.
Muratov responded exactly as I expected: With a yes. Chickening out doesn’t apply to someone like him. As of today, I am officially a freelance Berlin correspondent for Novaya Gazeta. Which at home in Russia is suffering massive pressure from the government. Even though the Federal Press Conference is a private association, if it were to take such an affront to the highly respected “Novaya gazeta” by excluding its correspondents, its actions towards me would have reached a completely new dimension. At present, my objection to the exclusion is still pending, and the Executive Board will decide on it.
Contrary to what is suggested in the reports of the major media about my exclusion, various members of the Federal Press Conference work for media based abroad (see here); according to the statutes, this is also possible. But corresponding false information was spread just as unasked as the lie that my site is a company. It never was and is not a company, it is solely my site as a freelance journalist.
My new activity is piquant – don’t worry, of course my page remains the main focus of my work – also for the many haters who want to accuse me of all things, as a Putin critic, of being close to the Kremlin in order to defame me. This was already completely absurd – now, however, the nose should become very long with the spreaders of such lies …
At this point I would like to thank again all readers, who made it possible for me with their support to defend myself legally against the expulsion at the Federal Press Conference. Thanks to their help, I was able to hire a lawyer and, if necessary, take legal action.
Who is Boris Reitschuster?
Boris Reitschuster headed the Moscow office of the news magazine “Focus” from 1999 to 2015. At the end of 2011, he had to leave Russia after massive threats and continued to run the office from Berlin for almost four years. Born in Augsburg, he is the author of several bestsellers, a translator of Mikhail Gorbachev and has written for numerous media outlets, including the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, the Wiener Zeitung and the Münchner Merkur. He hosted a weekly political talk show on the Russian-language German channel OstWest-TV until July 2021; until the Corona crisis, he was also active as a lecturer at the Institute for International Politics and Economics Haus Rissen in Hamburg, where he was in constant exchange with the Bundeswehr.
Reitschuster was awarded the Theodor Heuss Medal in 2008 – “in view of his extraordinary commitment, with which he has critically examined Russia’s political system for many years and fought on the ground with great personal commitment for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and thus for the preservation of civil and human rights.”
Reitschuster is considered “one of Germany’s leading experts on Russia,” according to Cicero. “Die Welt” wrote: “No one has ever described the Russian system of power better than him. Boris Reitschuster, one of the sharpest Putin critics in Germany, can be proud of himself. The Russian president himself has used the term ‘democracy,’ which Reitschuster helped to coin, at least once.”
Reitschuster succumbed to the fascination of Russia after a youth exchange with the Soviet Union in 1988 and studied the language of the country with which he had previously had no connection other than his first name. After graduating from high school in 1990, he moved to Moscow as a student to his childhood sweetheart, with two suitcases and all his savings. In a host family and in empty stores he got to know Russia away from the foreigner ghettos. After training as an interpreter, he worked as a German teacher and translator. At the same time, he reported from Russia for various German daily newspapers. After five years in Moscow, Reitschuster did a traineeship at the “Augsburger Allgemeine” in 1995 and then worked for the press agencies dpa and AFP in Munich. As head of the FOCUS Moscow bureau, Reitschuster returned to the country that has become his second home in 1999 and lived there until the end of 2011.