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Russia Ratchets Up ‘Foreign Agent’ Campaign


RUSSIA – Moscow, RFE/RL office, Radio Svoboda, November 16, 2017

New Russian 'Foreign Agent' Law Targets Individual Journalists And Threatens Isolation
An amended law on “foreign agents” signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on December 2 ratchets up pressure on RFE/RL journalists in Russia who are too often the only source of reliable information in their remote regions, and who provide one of the few alternatives to Kremlin-controlled news. In a statement, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly decried the law, saying, “RFE/RL works with hundreds of Russian correspondents across the country who are a lifeline for news-deprived local communities and who tackle important issues ignored by state media, but who, according to this law, should now, absurdly, be considered ‘foreign agents.’”

INCIDENTS AND THREATS

Russian Companion Bill Sets Fines For Media Labeled ‘Foreign Agents’
The Russian Duma on December 3 passed in its second reading a bill delineating fines for infractions committed by media “foreign agents.” Violations include failure to include the label “foreign agent” on an outlet’s website, its social networks, or on individual materials or publications; and tardy or incorrect submission of financial and other reports. Fines begin at $155 for individuals, $779 for officials, and $7,793 for legal entities. They range as high as $1,558 for individuals, $3,117 for officials, and $80,000 for legal entities. Violators may also be subject to arrest.

Putin Signs Law Requiring Russian Devices To Contain Approved Software
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation requiring the installation of domestic software on digital devices sold inside Russia. The list of devices has not yet been published, but is certain to include smartphones, computers, and Smart TVs.

Moscow Court Rejects Golunov Complaint Over Police Inaction
A Moscow court on December 2 rejected a complaint from Russian journalist Ivan Golunov accusing law enforcement of failing to launch an investigation of the police officers who detained him in a high-profile drug-trafficking case in June.

Ukrainian Journalist Attacked For Third Time In Seven Years
Oleksandr Vlashchenko, a Ukrainian journalist in the southern port city of Mykolayiv, was hospitalized on November 30 after a lone assailant sprayed a liquid substance into his eyes and hit him several times in the face and head while he was returning home.

Kyrgyz Security Committee Summons RFE/RL Journalists For Questioning After Corruption Report
Kyrgyzstan’s National Security Committee said on December 2 that it will question two RFE/RL journalists, in addition to several government officials and lawmakers, following the publication of a three-part investigative report by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, OCCRP, and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop documenting wide-scale corruption in the country’s customs service and the outflow of $700 million in cash.

RFE/RL INVESTIGATIONS & IMPACT

KYRGYZSTAN: RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, in collaboration with OCCRP and Kloop, has published a three-part investigative report documenting a massive money laundering ring involving the country’s customs service, and an elaborate system of human couriers who engineered the outflow of $700 million in cash. The report sparked demonstrations in Bishkek and calls for the arrest of Raimbek Matraimov, a powerful former Kyrgyz customs official who is alleged to have facilitated the operation. The report was cited by Reuters, AFP, Interfax, and many other media outlets. RFE/RL’s Majlis Podcast sheds further light on the report.

CRIMEA: A joint investigation by Current Time and the anti-corruption project Municipal Scanner has revealed that scores of European companies – primarily offshore holding firms – have operated and invested in Crimea, sidestepping U.S. and EU sanctions that were adopted after Russia forcibly annexed the peninsula in 2014. The three-part report documents the activities of over 100 companies and several Ukrainian oligarchs, often operating through murky ownership structures.

UZBEKISTAN: RFE/RL and Swedish network TV4 uncovered a shadowy scheme whereby thousands of migrants from Central Asia have joined Sweden's labor force without work permits through a backdoor that keeps them under the radar – obtaining a legal Swedish tax number by pretending to buy a used car. At least one of the migrants even worked at the Swedish border police, in what a fraud expert called "state-assisted slavery."

IRAN: RFE/RL’s Radio Farda continued its extensive coverage of protests across Iran, increasing its programming on TV, radio, and digital platforms. After the internet blackout was eased in late November, it was able to obtain and then publish user-generated videos that documented the regime’s forcible suppression of the demonstrations earlier. Farda’s stats on Instagram, a platform it is nurturing to engage young audiences, reflect its importance to its audience: its reach numbered over 900,000 before the blackout, 250,000 during the blackout, and had rebounded to about 750,000 on November 25.

Incidents By Numbers

Aggregate incidents by country for 2019 in which RFE/RL journalists and contributors have been harassed, intimidated, threatened, assaulted, detained, or arrested because of their work.
Aggregate incidents by country for 2019 in which RFE/RL journalists and contributors have been harassed, intimidated, threatened, assaulted, detained, or arrested because of their work.

About Journalists in Trouble

Journalists in Trouble is a bi-weekly report of incidents targeting RFE/RL journalists and their work, and developments affecting press freedom in our coverage region.​

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