Accessibility links

Breaking News

Q&A: Amnesty Calls Russian Legislation On Foreign Media 'Serious Blow' To Journalists


Amnesty International's Denis Krivosheev: "It seems the Russian authorities believe there can only be one message coming from the media in Russia." (file photo)

Russia's State Duma on November 15 passed legislation that would allow for the designation of foreign media organizations in the country as “foreign agents” and require them to declare full details about their funding, finances, and staffing. It still requires an upper-house vote and the signature of President Vladimir Putin.

Amnesty International has condemned the effort as “repressive legislation” that will tighten the Kremlin’s “stranglehold” on press freedom.

RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz spoke about the legislation with Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia.

RFE/RL: Who is the Russian legislation on foreign-funded news organizations most likely to affect?

Denis Krivosheev: This is a piece of legislation which is intended to affect what essentially are the remaining few free media voices in Russia. Some of these tend to be foreign media with Russian services. Some of them were Russian media, initially, who had to relocate [outside of Russia] to be less affected by the restraints in Russia -- although those are now in the firing line, so to speak, under this legislation.

This legislation is intended as a measure of restraint on media. It does affect in a serious way those who will fall under its provisions.

RFE/RL: Why do you see this legislation as a serious blow to an already desperate situation for press freedom in Russia?

Krivosheev:
This legislation is a serious blow to media freedom in Russia for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is already a tried-and-tested measure. The purpose of this is to apply a toxic label on those who do independent work in Russia. We’ve seen this done with nongovernmental organizations.

Journalism has always been a dangerous profession in Russia. This [legislation] isn’t making it any easier, but makes it a whole lot worse."

For the purpose of what authorities did with the [2012] law on foreign agents, this was successful. NGOs have been smeared through the need to brand themselves as "foreign agents." It’s not a neutral term. It’s not a term which is about indicating where their funding comes from. It’s a term the purpose of which is to denigrate their work in the eyes of the Russian public. And now, the same measure will apply to media that is foreign registered.

RFE/RL: How else will this legislation restrain press freedoms in Russia?

Krivosheev: The other problem with this, although the legislation did not specifically restrict what follows -- in practice we have seen with NGOs that their access to state agencies, to officials, and to a number of platforms have been restricted once they found themselves on the "foreign agents" list. I imagine this will happen to media, as well. The access to key people and platforms and agencies will be restricted. And that will be a serious blow to journalists who try to do their work in Russia.

INFOGRAPHIC: How Russia Has Implemented Its 'Foreign Agent' Law (click to view)

I am sure there will be other consequences, financial and otherwise, from the onerous reporting obligations [about funding, finances, and staffing]. We will see a big change in practice after this.

RFE/RL: What earlier developments do you see that lead you to believe this legislation is part of a trend, a broader effort by Russia’s government, to create an echo chamber in the media where only the Kremlin’s point of view is presented to the Russian public?

Krivosheev: Over the last couple of years, perhaps even longer, we have seen very worrying trends. Journalism has always been a dangerous profession in Russia. This [legislation] isn’t making it any easier, but makes it a whole lot worse.

We’ve seen serious restrictions on the media. Those who didn’t support the government’s official position found themselves in difficult situations. Those who were independent became less so. Some had to change their editorial boards and go through other internal changes because the pressure can also be put on the owners, as well as the editors and the staff.

Russians React To 'Foreign Agent' Media Law
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:04 0:00

We’ve seen restrictions, serious restrictions, in terms of space available to the media for broadcasting and reaching out to the general public. And this is just carrying on with the same work. It seems the Russian authorities believe there can only be one message coming from the media in Russia. And where the opportunities exist for alternative points of view, alternative media platforms, they are closing them one by one. And this [legislation] is another step [in this direction]. A big one.

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