A Russian court has fined several of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Russian-language projects and its general director a total of 1.1 million rubles ($14,500) for failing to comply with new restrictions under the country’s "foreign agent" law.
The Tverskoi District Court in Moscow on January 27 ruled in favor of four administrative protocols submitted by Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor "for noncompliance by the media performing the functions of a foreign agent with the requirements of the law on labeling information disseminated by them."
RFE/RL was fined 1 million rubles by the court, while the general director of the services was fined 100,000 rubles.
On January 12, Roskomnadzor submitted a total of eight protocols that target four of RFE/RL's Russian-language projects -- its main service for Russia, Radio Liberty; the Current Time TV and digital network; and Siberia Realities (Sibir.Realii) and Idel Realities (Idel.Realii), two regional sites delivering local news and information to audiences in Siberia and the Volga-Urals.
Rulings on the four other protocols are expected in February.
Among other things, the law requires certain news organizations that receive foreign funding to label content within Russia as being produced by a "foreign agent."
The law also puts RFE/RL journalists at risk for criminal prosecution.
An independent nonprofit corporation that receives funding from the U.S. Congress, RFE/RL has not complied with the order. The mounting fines could potentially force the company to shutter its presence within Russia.
U.S. Republican and Democratic lawmakers recently called for new sanctions against Moscow if the Kremlin moves to enforce the stringent restrictions and punishing fines that threaten RFE/RL’s news operations in Russia.
Russian regulators have singled out RFE/RL, whose editorial independence is also enshrined in U.S. law, over other foreign news operations in Russia.
Since early in Vladimir Putin’s presidency, the Kremlin has steadily tightened the screws on independent media.
The country is ranked 149th out of 180 places in the World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders.