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“For the truth in life and on stage”: Jailed director Evgeniya Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk receive Kamerton Award

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Theater director Evgeniya Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk, who are currently behind bars while awaiting trial in a case over the alleged “justification of terrorism,” have been awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Kamerton Prize for excellence in journalism, according to a report by independent publication Novaya Gazeta.

The Kamerton Prize was established ten years ago by the Russian Union of Journalists in memory of the reporter Anna Politkovskaya, a Novaya Gazeta reporter murdered in Moscow in 2006.

Prior to the 2023 award, the Kamerton was usually given to journalists “for outstanding achievements in the defense of human rights, for courage and consistency in upholding the principles of freedom of speech, for honesty, dignity, civic responsibility and human compassion.”

Elena Milashina, a Novaya Gazeta journalist who had been violently attacked in Chechnya earlier in the summer, presented the awards to the winners’ representatives. Milashina was assaulted during an attempt to attend a court hearing for Zarema Musayeva, the mother of the well-known Chechen human rights lawyer and activist Abubakar Yangulbayev.

“Yes, this is the first time the Kamerton has been awarded to non-journalists. This was the unanimous decision of the jury. With the wording: for the truth in life and on stage. I think no one in the room was surprised by this decision,” Milashina said.

Nikolay Polishchuk, Berkovich's husband, and actress Marietta Tsigal-Polishchuk accepted the awards on behalf of the arrested director and playwright.

On June 30, a court remanded Berkovich and Petriychuk to remain behind bars until September 10, 2023. Berkovich, who is a mother of two adopted children, requested that the judge grant her house arrest so that she could be with her daughters.

Berkovich and Petriychuk were detained in Moscow on May 4 for “justifying terrorism.” The pair was reported to the authorities by members of the National Liberation Movement (“Natsionalnoye Osvoboditelnoye Dvizhenie,” or NOD) over the play Finist Yasny Sokol (Phinist, The Brave Falcon) – in the play, women from Russia who have decided to marry Islamists travel to Syria, where they are subsequently recruited by militants. The authors of the report complained, among other things, that the actors did not verbally declare the ban on ISIS in Russia during the play [ISIS is an extremist organization banned in Russia, and every mention of it in media reports, broadcasts and public performances has to be supplemented with a disclaimer about its status – The Insider]. The play premiered in 2020, and was awarded the Golden Mask theatre prize – one of Russia’s most prestigious awards in the field. Both Berkovich and Petriychuk were initially released after being interrogated, but were almost immediately detained again as suspects.

The Kamerton Prize, which translates to “tuning fork” and symbolizes the benchmark for professional conduct, was traditionally bestowed upon journalists. In previous years, the prize was awarded to prominent Russian reporters like Novaya Gazeta’s Elena Kostyuchenko and Meduza’s anti-corruption reporter Ivan Golunov.

The National Liberation Movement, or NOD, is a pro-Putin nationalist political movement. Founded in 2011 by “ultra-patriotic” State Duma deputy Nikolay Fyodorov, the group aims to fight Russia's “enemies from within.” NOD has aggressively protested against Russia’s perceived enemies: the U.S. Embassy, opposition politicians, artists criticizing state censorship, and even foreign audit firms working in Russia.

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