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RFE/RL’s Prague Headquarters Puts Russia on Notice of Treaty Violations

The Prague headquarters of RFE/RL today demanded that Russia respect its international legal obligations.

Headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)

PRAGUE — The Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty today demanded that Russia respect its international legal obligations under the investment treaty between the Czech Republic and Russia by treating RFE/RL’s operations in Russia fairly, with due process, and in a non-discriminatory manner. RFE/RL has asked Russia to immediately engage in consultations in an effort to resolve their differences.

Russia’s violation of its obligations to treat Czech investments in Russia fairly began in late 2020, when the Russian telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor, selectively applied a recent administrative order to target RFE/RL. Roskomnadzor demanded that RFE/RL prominently label every individual web article and social media post and include a 15-second statement at the start of every video, television, and radio broadcast that RFE/RL is a “foreign agent,” in an attempt to undermine RFE/RL’s reputation for independence and to shrink RFE/RL’s large audience in Russia. Because RFE/RL has declined to comply with this discriminatory action, Russia has levied a cascade of fines and court actions against RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau and the bureau’s general director, resulting in a threat to RFE/RL’s operations in Russia. In just a few weeks, Russia has issued over 150 notices of violations for failure to comply with the labeling requirements.

“These punitive measures by the Russian government are a nervous reaction aimed at driving RFE/RL out of business at a time when our audience in Russia is skyrocketing,” said Daisy Sindelar, acting president and editor in chief for RFE/RL. “We intend to use every legal avenue available to defend our operations in Russia, so we can continue to deliver the accurate, unflinching journalism our audiences expect and depend on.”

RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters has invited Russia to engage in meaningful and immediate consultations in an effort to de-escalate the situation and resolve this dispute. If Russia is not willing to do so, the treaty allows RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters to commence international arbitration proceedings against Russia.

RFE/RL operates in 23 countries, including Russia, where its Moscow bureau employs roughly 50 full-time staff members and close to 300 freelance reporters who work throughout Russia to help compile independent reporting on issues of public import. RFE/RL content in Russia currently reaches at least 6.5% of Russian adults, or nearly 6.7 million people, weekly. RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau has been operating continuously since 1991.

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About RFE/RL 

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through USAGM.