FREE PRESS: Russia designates journalists and bloggers ‘foreign agents’ under new law
By Iain Fraser – Geopolitical Editor & Journalist
European Press Centre Málaga
Russia can designate independent journalists and bloggers as “foreign agents” after amending a controversial law was steered through parliament’s lower house – the Duma – by MPs Leonid Levin and Pyotr Tolstoy and signed off by President Vladimir Putin last Monday.[Monday, 2 December, 2019]
The “foreign agent” label already applies to certain media organisations and NGOs which engage in politics and receive funding from abroad. Formerly the designation “Foreign agent” was a Soviet-era KGB term of abuse for political dissidents and indeed the anti-corruption organisation of anti-Putin campaigner Alexei Navalny has already been declared a “foreign agent”.
The amended law has naturally been condemned by the EU, Amnesty International and the OSCE international security body.
Russia says the original media bill, introduced in 2017, was its response to a US requirement for Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT to register as a foreign agent in the US. However, the first “foreign agent” law, introduced in 2012, targeted non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including charities and civil society groups, which get foreign funding and engage in political activity in Russia.
Groups, and now individuals, labelled as “foreign agents” have to put that label on their publications and submit detailed paperwork to the authorities, or face fines for not doing so.