For the first time, the Ministry of Justice included individuals in the list of foreign media agents

Russian ministry names polling group ‘foreign agent’

According to the media law that came into force at the end of 2019 – a foreign agent may be an individual who distributes materials of a publication or a legal entity recognized as a foreign agent, participates in their creation and receives foreign funding

The Russian Ministry of Justice on Monday included five people in the register of foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent. The register includes human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, civic activist Daria Apakhonchich, journalists Ludmila Savitskaya and Sergey Markelov collaborating with Radio Liberty, as well as the author of Radio Liberty and editor-in-chief of the Pskov province website Denis Kamalyagin.

According to the media law that came into force at the end of 2019 – A foreign agent can be recognized as an individual who distributes materials of a publication or a legal entity recognized as a foreign agent, participates in their creation and receives foreign funding. The Ministry of Justice did not explain on what grounds five people were included in the register.

Earlier in the list of media – foreign agents in Russia included, in particular, Radio Liberty and its regional projects, the TV channel Present Time, as well as several other subdivisions of the media corporation Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Inclusion in the list imposes additional restrictions on the media, in particular, they (like individuals included in the list) are required to provide regular financial reports on their activities and label their publications in the media in a certain way..

According to the Russian authorities, these legislative measures affect the administrative and technical parameters of the work of editorial offices, but do not limit the freedom of creativity of journalists. The management of RFE / RL media corporation assesses the actions of the Russian authorities in connection with the legislation on the media – foreign agents as dangerous efforts to harass journalists, and steps to ensure that Russian citizens receive only Kremlin-approved information. US laws guarantee RFE / RL journalistic independence and do not allow political and censorship interference in editorial policy.

Russian legislation on non-profit organizations and the media – foreign agents has repeatedly been criticized by Western governments and international human rights organizations. Russian officials have repeatedly argued that the media law – foreign agents is a mirror reaction to the requirements of US law to register the Russian TV channel RT as a foreign agent. However, RT broadcasts around the clock on cable networks throughout the United States, while access to cable networks and terrestrial TV and radio broadcasting for foreign media in Russia is significantly limited..

The popularity of Radio Liberty in Russia is growing steadily. The sites of the Russian Service PCE / RL in 2020 register about 12 million visits per month. This is the historically best result of Radio Liberty in the entire history of the Internet. Radio Liberty’s YouTube communities exceed a million people, Facebook – 720 thousand people.

At the end of December, the State Duma approved a new bill on individuals – foreign agents in the third reading. Separately, a document was adopted that introduces criminal liability (up to five years in prison – in relation to natural persons-foreign agents), if they have not submitted an application for inclusion in the relevant register or do not report on their activities.

The document allows individuals and non-legal entities to be recognized as foreign agents if they are involved in politics in Russia and receive foreign funding. Such associations and individuals will be required to apply for their inclusion in the list of foreign agents, after which they will regularly report to the Ministry of Justice on their activities. Individuals-foreign agents will not be able to hold positions in the state and municipal service, as well as be admitted to state secrets.

The basis for recognition as a foreign agent may be such actions as holding rallies and public debates, disseminating opinions on government policy, actions aimed at obtaining a certain result in an election or referendum, participation in election observation or in the activities of political parties, if they are carried out in the interests of foreign sources

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