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Russian Independent Media Join Forces To Urge Putin To End 'Foreign Agent' Label

A journalist at work at the Dozhd TV channel in Moscow on August 20.
A journalist at work at the Dozhd TV channel in Moscow on August 20.

A number of leading Russian news journals and websites have joined forces to protest against the targeting by authorities of a growing number of independent media outlets and journalists under Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” law.

In a text published online on August 27 and addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials, the group of independent media – including Forbes, Novaya gazeta, Dozhd, and Meduza – issued six demands, including the rescinding of a law labeling certain independent media and journalists as “foreign agents.”

The law is set up to target media, NGOs, and individuals that receive funding from outside of Russia.

On August 20, TV Dozhd, an independent news channel, and Vazhniye Istoriye, an investigative news site, were added to the list.

However, Dozhd, which says its advertisers are wholly Russian, not foreign, was targeted because it printed, or broadcast, material from other designated foreign agents, according to Meduza, a Latvian-based news site that has also been designated a foreign agent.

To date, 43 entities and individuals have been designated as foreign agents in Russia, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and several of its Russian-language news sites, including its flagship Russian-language television channel, Current Time.

The Russian law, first passed in 2012 and amended several times since, now requires designated media to label all of their content with an intrusive disclaimer. Some media have complied, even amid fears that the labels would scare off advertisers. At least one designated Russian news outlet has closed. Meduza has resorted to crowdfunding to continue operating.

RFE/RL has not labeled its content, resulting in the Justice Ministry imposing tens of millions of dollars in fines. RFE/RL has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights and has also moved to shift some of its employees and operations out of Moscow to Kyiv and elsewhere.

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly has said that Russia was attempting to fine RFE/RL's Moscow bureau out of existence.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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