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EU Criticizes Russia’s ‘Foreign Agent’ Media Law

Several major media outlets, such as RFE, VOA, and Deutsche Welle, might be subjected to stricter controls and requirements.

27 November 2017

International news outlets operating in Russia face the label of “foreign agents” under a new Russian law imposing restrictions that are unknown at the moment – amid growing criticism from international organizations including the European Union.


Russia's Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament, passed the legislative proposal on 22 November in a unanimous vote, with President Vladimir Putin giving his final approval required for it to become law, RFE/RL writes. The new law was published on the country’s official legal information site on Saturday.


The decision on which outlets would be targeted and under what circumstances belongs to the Russian Ministry of Justice, according to the BBC. One of the provisions of the law might require the news outlets to mention on their websites and in their broadcasts that they are foreign agents, RFE/RL notes, based on information from Russian lawmakers.


Two weeks ago, Washington imposed restrictions on Russia’s state-funded broadcaster RT (previously Russia Today), forcing it to register as a foreign agent in the United States after allegations it used its global reach to spread misinformation about the 2016 U.S. presidential election.


John Lansing, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, said in a statement that “any characterization of such steps as reciprocity for U.S. actions severely distorts reality. Russian media, including RT and Sputnik, are free to operate in the United States and can be, and are, carried by U.S. cable television outlets and FM radio stations. However, U.S international media, including VOA and RFE/RL, are banned from television and radio in Russia.”


Brussels also criticized the initiative, with Maja Kocijancic (pictured), the spokesperson of the European Commission for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, saying in a statement issued yesterday that “the ‘foreign agent’ legislation goes against Russia's human rights obligations and commitments.”


“ … The extension of its scope to foreign media,” she continued, “in addition to its existing application to Russian NGOs, is a further threat to free and independent media and to access to information, and yet another attempt to shrink the space for independent voices in Russia.”


  • Russia's “foreign agent law,” in effect since 2012, requires all non-governmental organizations that engage in “political activity” to register as foreign agents if they receive funding from abroad. The listing means more police scrutiny and checks.


  • Last spring, Russia's Justice Ministry has said it considers criticism of the “foreign agents” law as a manifestation of political activity, which may later become a reason for an NGO’s activity to become terminated

Compiled by Ioana Caloianu

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