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Journalist or Foreign Agent?

Under new Russian legislation, U.S.-funded media face more restrictions and challenges.

5 December 2017

Russia has declared Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and several affiliated media outlets “foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent.”


The decision announced by the Russian Justice Ministry today was enabled by a law adopted by parliament last month permitting the government to declare foreign media as foreign agents, the BBC reports.


Russian lawmakers said the legislation was in retaliation for U.S. action against the U.S. affiliates of Russian state-sponsored media RT and Sputnik, which were required to register under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).


The potential restrictions that the U.S. broadcasters could now face are still unknown, but lawmakers said any media labeled “foreign agent” will be required to submit detailed financial-reporting, as well as label all published content as created by a foreign agent, RFE/RL reports.


Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, said the media would not lose their accreditation and could “go ahead with journalistic activity in Russia calmly and without any hindrances.”



  • In addition to RFE’s and VOA’s main news operations, the other affected sites are six of RFE’s Russian regional news outlets and Factograph, a joint RFE/VOA Russian language fact-checking site.


  • U.S. officials protest the validity of Russia’s actions, saying the Russia law is far more stringent than FARA, and that Russia uses its foreign agent legislation to silence opposing opinions and independent media, RFE/RL says.


  • RFE and VOA are funded by the U.S. federal budget and are overseen by a board nominated by the president.


  • In another retaliatory move, a handful of the 23 U.S. media accredited in Russia could lose their access to the State Duma, Zakharova said Monday, The Moscow Times reports. Last week, a panel of U.S. journalists voted to revoke RT’s accreditation to report from Congress. 

Compiled by Claudia Harmata

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