Accessibility links

Breaking News

EU Says Russian 'Foreign Agent' Law Stifling Independent Media, Calls For Repeal


Journalists work at RFE/RL's bureau in Moscow. The EU said the "foreign agent" and other laws "have the clear intention to hamper RFE/RL's operations in Russia as part of a wider trend to stifle independent media and critical voices in the country."

The European Union has called on Russia to repeal its controversial "foreign agent" law, which has been used to target a growing number of Russian-language media outlets, including Radio FreeEurope/Radio Liberty.

The European Union has called on Russia to repeal its controversial "foreign agent" law, which has been used to target a growing number of Russian-language media outlets, including Radio FreeEurope/Radio Liberty.

The call, made on May 17 by a spokesman for EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell, comes as Russian authorities both expand their targets of the 9-year-old law, as well their enforcement of it.

Last week, court bailiffs moved to begin seizing property from RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, requesting a list of equipment that potentially could be seized. Bailiffs also obtained a court order freezing the Moscow bank accounts used by RFE/RL.

Days earlier, Russia's media regulator said it was adding VTimes, an online news site founded by ex-staffers of the newspaper Vedomosti, to its "foreign agent" list. The regulator had added another online news site, Meduza, previously.

"The EU has consistently urged the Russian authorities to repeal this stifling legislation and to respect their international obligations on freedom of association, assembly and expression," said Peter Stano, the spokesman for EU foreign-affairs chief Josep Borrell.

Russia's so-called "foreign agent" legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly.

It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as "foreign agents," and to submit to audits.

Later modifications of the law targeted foreign-funded media, including RFE/RL's Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time.

The law, which has been further expanded to include individual reporters, is one of several Kremlin-backed measures aimed at restricting foreign-funded activities in Russia.

A parallel measure known as the "undesirable organizations" law has forced the shutdown of a number of nongovernmental civil society groups in Russia, mainly from Europe and the United States.

"Such actions have the clear intention to hamper RFE/RL's operations in Russia as part of a wider trend to stifle independent media and critical voices in the country," Stano said.

Separately, the new York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Russia to unfreeze the bank accounts used by RFE/RL and cease labeling outlets as "foreign agents."

Russian authorities "should cease fining and harassing news outlets for alleged violations of its foreign agents law -- an unjust piece of legislation that should be repealed," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said in a statement.

"Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty should be able to access its resources freely, and websites such as VTimes should not be forced to jump through hoops and risk large fines due to their ownership structures."

To date, Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor has presented RFE/RL with 520 violations of its labeling restrictions, which are expected to result -- once all are adjudicated by Russian courts -- in fines of $2.4 million.

All of the appeals of these fines filed so far by RFE/RL have been summarily rejected in Russian courts.

In addition, appeals by three RFE/RL freelancers designated in December 2020 as individual media "foreign agents" have been rejected by courts in northwestern Russia, forcing them to begin filing detailed financial declarations with the authorities and to identify themselves in all electronic communications as a "foreign agent."

Related

  • The Washington Post | Josh Rogin, "Biden should tell Putin to stop harassing U.S. news organizations in Russia" (June 15, 2021)
  • The Atlantic, "The Cost of Trump After Trump" (June 15, 2021)
  • NPR, "5 Things To Watch At The Biden-Putin Summit" (June 14, 2021)
  • American Purpose, "Defending Journalists against Gangsters" (June 14, 2021)
  • The Washington Post | Editorial: "Biden’s test in Europe: Drawing red lines with Putin and Erdogan" (June 12, 2021)
  • The Washington Post | Sen. Jim Risch: "Biden wants Russia’s cooperation. But Putin thrives on chaos." (June 11, 2021)
  • Newsweek | Ilan Berman, "Four Priorities For The Biden-Putin Summit" (June 10, 2021)
  • European Parliament | Resolution, "The listing of German NGOs as 'undesirable organisations' by Russia and the detention of Andrei Pivovarov" (June 10, 2021)
  • U.S. Mission to the OSCE, "On Shrinking Space for Civil Society in Russia" (June 10, 2021)
  • Novaya Gazeta, "«Эвакуация» «Свободы». 30 лет спустя" (June 8, 2021)
  • Voice of America, "Russia Using Foreign Agent Law to Attack Journalism, Media Say" (June 10, 2021)
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee | Hearing: “U.S. Policy on Belarus” (June 8, 2021)
  • The Dispatch, "How Moscow Is Threatening Radio Free Europe and the Remnants of the Independent Press" (Jun 1, 2021)
  • Columbia Journalism Review | Joel Simon, "Repression and Reciprocity in Russia" (May 25, 2021)
  • The Washington Post editorial, "Russia’s attack on U.S. media has become a test case" (May 21, 2021)
  • The New York Times, Kremlin Escalates Fight With U.S.-Funded Journalists, Officials Say (May 20, 2021)
  • Axios World, "Radio Free Europe fights to continue operations in Russia" (May 20, 2021)
  • NPR, "Russia Cracks Down On U.S. Broadcaster RFE/RL" (May 15, 2021)
  • AP, "Russian bailiffs show up at US broadcaster’s office" (May 14, 2021)
  • Reuters, "Russia freezes Moscow bank accounts of U.S. broadcaster RFE/RL" (May 14, 2021)
  • Deutsche Welle, "Russia freezes bank accounts of US broadcaster RFE/RL" (May 15, 2021)
  • Moscow Times, "Moscow Bailiffs Visit RFE/RL Newsroom Over ‘Foreign Agent’ Fines" (May 14, 2021)
  • International Press Institute, "Media face financial ruin under Russian 'foreign agent' law" (May 10, 2021)
  • The Washington Post editorial, "The ominous lessons Putin is learning from Xi Jinping" (May 7, 2021)
  • The Guardian, "Kremlin bears down on Moscow bureau of US-funded radio station" (May 5, 2021)
  • The Washington Examiner, opinion by Ted Lipien on Russia's campaign against RFE/RL (May 3, 2021)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentions RFE/RL in World Press Freedom Day statement (May 2, 2021)
  • U.S. State Department spokesman on RFE/RL in Russia (Apr 29, 2021)
  • U.S. Mission to OSCE on RFE/RL in Russia (Apr 29, 2021)
  • The Washington Post editorial, on RFE/RL, Meduza and the "foreign agent" law (Apr 26, 2021)
  • The Power Vertical podcast - RFE/RL's Jamie Fly and Kiryl Sukhotski on "“Truth, Lies, And Foreign Agents: The Kremlin’s War On RFE/RL"
  • The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum on Putin's rationale for forcing RFE/RL out of Russia (Apr 22, 2021)
  • AP on RFE/RL's petition for "interim measures" at the ECtHR (Apr 16, 2021)
  • Reuters on RFE/RL's petition for "interim measures" at the ECtHR (Apr 16, 2021)
  • AFP on RFE/RL's petition for "interim measures" at the ECtHR (Apr 16, 2021)
  • AlJazeera on RFE/RL's petition for "interim measures" at the ECtHR (Apr 16, 2021)
  • Foreign Podicy podcast (FDD) - RFE/RL's Jamie Fly and Andrey Shary on "Putin vs. The Press" (Apr 10, 2021)
  • Reuters on Russia's pressure on RFE/RL (Apr 7, 2021)
  • AFP (via The Moscow Times) on Russia's pressure on RFE/RL (Apr 7, 2021)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, following meeting with USAGM Acting CEO Kelu Chao, on RFE/RL in Russia (Apr 6, 2021)
  • U.S, Agency For Global Media, following meeting with Secretary of State Blinken, on RFE/RL in Russia (Apr 6, 2021)
  • The Washington Post writes about the "foreign agent" law and its impact on Russian NGO's and RFE/RL (Apr 3, 2021)
  • U.S. Mission to OSCE on RFE/RL in Russia (Mar 18, 2021)
  • EU Mission to OSCE on RFE/RL in Russia (Mar 18, 2021)
  • Reporters Without Borders on RFE/RL in Russia (Mar 16, 2021)
  • U.S. Senators on RFE/RL in Russia (Mar 12, 2021)
  • U.S. State Department spokesman on RFE/RL in Russia (Mar 3, 2021)
  • The Washington Post editorializes about RFE/RL in Russia (Feb 12, 2021)
  • The New York Times, "Russia Pushes U.S.-Funded News Outlet Toward Exit" (Jan 21, 2021)
  • U.S. Members of Congress on RFE/RL in Russia (Jan 21, 2021)​
  • Committee to Protect Journalists on RFE/RL and Russia's expanded "foreign agent" law (Jan 14, 2021)
XS
SM
MD
LG