Dozens of people gathered in central Moscow on September 4 to protest the Russian government’s recent crackdown on independent media.
Participants at the rally on Chistoprudny Boulevard were mostly members of the Yabloko opposition party, journalists, and opposition candidates in Russia's September 19 parliamentary elections.
In their speeches, the candidates condemned the government’s recent designation of several independent media outlets and journalists as “foreign agents” – a label that implies an attempt to discredit the journalists or that applies additional government scrutiny.
"[Russian President Vladimir] Putin set up a goal for himself: All media have to be destroyed because they are bothering him," Marina Litvinovich, an opposition candidate, told the rally.
"My friends, we have to resist while we can. Many media will have to go underground,” she said.
The gathering was officially billed as a meeting between candidates and voters, to avoid accusations of staging an unauthorized rally.
Critics say the Kremlin has accelerated pressure on the country's independent media, opposition supporters, and human rights activists ahead of the elections, which are widely seen as an important part of Putin’s efforts to cement his rule before the next presidential election in 2024.
The “foreign agent” legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified several times. It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.
In 2017, the Russian government placed RFE/RL's Russian Service on the "foreign agents" list, along with six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services and Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
Russia's top independent TV channel Dozhd and popular news site Meduza are also among the outlets designated as “foreign agents.”