WASHINGTON -- An amended law on “foreign agents” signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin ratchets up pressure on the hundreds of correspondents working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) 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.
The law, signed on December 2, gives Russian authorities the power to designate individual reporters who work for organizations officially listed as "foreign agents" as foreign agents themselves. Nine RFE/RL reporting platforms have been designated a “foreign agent” as a result of legislation passed in 2017 that brings media organizations under the purview of a 2012 law requiring NGOs receiving foreign funding to register as “foreign agents” with the Justice Ministry.
“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,’” said RFE/RL President Jamie Fly. “These are exceptional and dedicated journalists. It is an outrage that this law targets their work and jeopardizes their security in an attempt to silence them and deprive Russian citizens of their right to seek reliable information.”
RFE/RL operates a large bureau in Moscow while relying on hundreds of contributors across Russia to report local news. Its Russian Service recently launched dedicated reporting units to provide up-close coverage of northern Russia (Sever.Realii) and Siberia (Sibir.Realii). Its North Caucasus and Tatar-Bashkir language services have similarly sought to make their reporting more accessible to regional audiences by standing up websites -- Kavkaz.Realii and Idel.Realii -- in Russian. The digital and TV network Current Time relies on a reporting network that extends across the entire expanse of the former Soviet Union to reach Russian speakers within and far beyond Russia’s borders.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 3.6 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2019. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.