January 23, 2018

Russia Designates U.S.-Backed Broadcasters as ‘Foreign Agents’

Russia Designates U.S.-Backed Broadcasters as ‘Foreign Agents’


In addition to Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, the Justice Ministry designated seven subsidiaries of Radio Free Europe as “fulfilling the role of foreign agents,” according to a statement on its website.

Some of the organizations focus on topics the Russian government considers sensitive, like Crimea.Realities, a website covering the peninsula annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and Caucasus.Realities, which reports on the situation in Russia’s restive southern region.

Radio Free Europe’s president, Thomas Kent, said his group was aware of the Russian decision but was not sure what it would mean in practice.

“The Russian Ministry of Justice has indicated that the new legislation will involve even more limitations on the work of our company in Russia,” Mr. Kent said in a video statement. “So far, the full nature of these limitations is unknown. At the same time, we remain committed to continuing our journalistic work in the interests of providing accurate and objective news to our Russian-speaking audiences.”

During Soviet times, the government jammed broadcasts of Radio Liberty and Voice of America, and banned other Western news outlets. It stopped doing so in 1988, during an era of political liberalization. But since coming to power in 1999, Mr. Putin has clamped down on the news media and other forms of expression.

Russia also cracked down that year on foreign-backed nongovernmental organizations that engaged in the broadly defined area of political activity, requiring them to register as “foreign agents.”

The 86 organizations currently on that list have to label all information they broadcast to Russian audiences as the product of a “foreign agent.” They also have to submit extensive financial reports, and their work is subject to suspension at any time by the authorities.



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