The new designation subjects affected US-backed news outlets to the same requirements that are applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law
Russia’s justice ministry on Tuesday named nine US media outlets including Voice of America as “foreign agents” after President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing international media to be slapped with the controversial label.
Russia’s broadside is likely to further sour battered US-Russia relations and is part of the fallout from allegations that the Kremlin meddled in the US presidential election last year in Donald Trump’s favour, something Moscow denies.
US intelligence officials accused the Kremlin of using Russian media it finances to influence US voters, and Russian state broadcaster RT last month reluctantly complied with a US request to register a US-based affiliate as a “foreign agent” under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
The Kremlin called the move an attack on free speech and says the new media law in Russia, which Western critics have called a disproportionate response, is retaliation.
Moscow’s response was widely trailed. Russian lawmakers rushed through the necessary legislation last month and President Vladimir Putin signed off on it on November 25.
Russia’s justice ministry said in a statement on its website on Tuesday it had now formally designated US government-sponsored VOA and RFE/RL, along with seven separate Russian or local-language news outlets run by RFE/RL, as “fulfilling the role of foreign agents.”
RFE/RL President Thomas Kent said in a video statement his organisation was committed to continuing its journalistic work in Russia, but was expecting “even more limitations on the work of our company.”
VOA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new designation subjects affected US-backed news outlets to the same requirements that are applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law.
Under that law, “foreign agents” must include in any information they publish or broadcast to Russian audiences a mention of their “foreign agent” designation.
They also must apply for inclusion in a government register, submit regular reports on their sources of funding, on their objectives, on how they spend their money, and who their managers are.
They can be subject to spot checks by the authorities to make sure they comply with the rules, according to the 2012 law, which has forced some NGOs to close.
One of the seven outlets on the justice ministry list provides news on Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, one on Siberia, and one on the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region. Another covers provincial Russia, one is an online TV station, another covers the mostly Muslim region of Tatarstan, and the other is a news portal that fact-checks the statements of Russian officials.