Russia's Justice Ministry has labeled four current and former RFE/RL journalists as "foreign agents" -- a designation used by the government to designate what it says are foreign-funded organizations that are engaged in political activity, as well as people linked to them.
RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir-Service and Idel.Realities journalists Alina Grigoryeva, Andrei Grigoryev, Regina Khisamova, and former contributor Regina Gimalova were added to the Russian registry of "foreign agents,"the ministry said.
Idel.Realities is a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service.
The controversial "foreign agent" legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly while being increasingly used to shutter civil-sector and media groups in Russia.
It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance, and which the government deems to be engaged in political activity, to be registered, to identify themselves as "foreign agents," and to submit to audits.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly condemned the Russian authorities' move and reaffirmed the Tatar Bashkir Service's determination to keep reporting for audiences inside Russia, a mission that he called "more important than ever."
“Even as the Kremlin increases its threats against Ukraine, the Putin regime is escalating its campaign against journalists who dare to report the facts inside Russia’s own borders," Fly said.
"Despite today’s designations, RFE/RL's Tatar Bashkir Service will continue to serve its audience inside Russia. Its work is more important than ever.”
The "foreign agents" label has led to several NGOs, media organizations, and other groups to shut down as they lose revenues from advertisers.
The designation also restricts other media from citing a “foreign agent” organization without including a disclaimer.
Most recently, the "foreign agents" legislation was used by Russian authorities last month to kick off the process of shutting down one of the post-Soviet world's most prestigious human rights organizations, International Memorial.