US state-run outlets Voice of America and RFE/RL ‘defiantly refusing’ to follow Russian foreign agent law, claims media regulator

US state-run outlets Voice of America and RFE/RL ‘defiantly refusing’ to follow Russian foreign agent law, claims media regulator

US state-run outfits RFE/RL and Voice of America are refusing to comply with Russian legislation on the work of foreign agents within the country, the government’s media regulator Roskomnadzor revealed on Friday morning.

In a statement published on the agency’s website, Roskomnadzor said Russian law describes restrictions and regulations “in detail” in order to prevent “ambiguous interpretations,” and there could be serious penalties for non-compliance.

“American media outlets Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty [RFE/RL], which are listed as foreign agents, are defiantly refusing to comply with the law in full,” the regulator said. “In particular, Voice of America is yet to establish a Russian legal entity, and Radio Liberty is systematically failing to comply with the requirement to mark the materials it posts.”

Russian foreign agent legislation was first passed in 2012 and targeted NGOs that engage in political activity using foreign funding. Since that time, the law has been expanded, and now mass media organizations, as well as specific individuals, can be deemed “foreign agents.” As part of the restrictions, all those on the list must declare themselves as such and make the designation clear to their readers.

In recent months, Latvia-based news outlet Meduza and Dutch-funded online newspaper VTimes have been added to the list. Both Voice of America and RFE/RL have had the designation for four years.

According to Roskomnadzor, the Russian laws are “much more tolerant than similar regulation in many foreign countries.” In particular, the regulator referenced the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires foreign agents to submit regular financial reports and give a detailed description of contacts with government officials.

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The regulator also noted that Russian media outlets deemed foreign agents by the US – in particular, Russia Today and news agency Sputnik – have completely fulfilled their requirements under American law, unlike US state media in Russia.

According to the US authorities, however, Russian laws are meant to stifle journalism. Speaking in May, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Moscow of using the foreign agent legislation to “restrict independent reporting, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.” This opinion is shared by Meduza, which has claimed the way the Russian system works destroys its social media and business model, and makes officials hesitant to interact with the organization.

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