US Department of State, Broadcasting Board of Governors, OSCE denounce the move

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on 05 July that it had been fined by a Moscow district court for allegedly failing to comply with a Russian law regulating media outlets branded by the government as “foreign agents”.

The ruling comes seven months after the Russian Justice Ministry classified the following nine US international broadcasting and news services as “foreign agents”: Voice of America (VOA), RFE/RL, Current Time TV (the Russian-language TV network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA), and six RFE/RL affiliated news services: the Tatar-Bashkir Service of RL (AzatliqRadiosi), Sibir.Realii, Idel.Realii, Faktograph, Kavkaz.Realii, Crimea.Realii.

“Sharp new escalation (…) worrying and unacceptable”

RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said the prosecution of RFE/RL was a “sharp new escalation in a series of Russian actions aimed at hamstringing the work of the company and at casting public suspicion on its Russian staff.”

John Lansing, CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency that oversees the five US international broadcasting networks, released a statement condemning the ruling. Lansing described it as “worrying and unacceptable,” saying it represented “an escalation in a targeted campaign against RFE/RL and VOA,” and added that it “will not deter us from our mission to inform and engage people – in Russia and around the world – in support of freedom and democracy.”

The US Department of State spokesperson issued a statement that said “we condemn the selective targeting of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VOA) under Russia’s law on ‘foreign agent’ media outlets.”

The statement further called “on the Russian government to uphold its commitments under the Helsinki Final Act and its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights to respect the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, in Russia.”

OSCE and CPJ denounce foreign agents branding

For his part the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, “denounced the fine imposed on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) for not complying with a Russian law regulating the activities of media outlets branded by the authorities as ‘foreign agents’.”

The day the State Duma’s information and communication committee approved legislation that would allow authorities to label private persons as foreign agents, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement condemning the move as “the latest step in the Russian authorities’ systematic policy towards obstructing the free flow of news.”

“We call on Russian authorities to reverse course and allow its citizens to receive information and opinion from a wide range of sources,” said a CPJ official.