Russian Media Watchdog Files More Protocols Against RFE/RL For Violating Labeling Requirement

Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has notified RFE/RL that it has filed in court the first of a new set of 130 protocols against the independent media outlet for violating Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” law requiring the labeling of content.

According to Roskomnadzor, the first 10 protocols of the new set have been sent to Moscow’s Tver district court. Earlier in June, the media watchdog informed RFE/RL that the 130 protocols it was preparing envision a total fine of 71.5 million rubles, or about $964,000.

The new cases come on top of some 650 protocols Roskomnadzor filed in court against RFE/RL’s Russian Service and several of its Russian-language platforms in the first seven months of the year.

Russia’s “foreign agent” legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly. 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. Later modifications of the law targeted foreign-funded media.

In 2017, the Russian government placed RFE/RL’s Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time on the list.

Earlier this year, Russian courts began imposing large fines against RFE/RL for failing to mark its articles with a government-prescribed label as required by new rules adopted in October 2020.

The fines Russian courts have ordered RFE/RL to pay so far amount to almost 250 million rubles ($3.4 million). RFE/RL has been appealing the protocols, but Russian courts so far have rejected hundreds of the appeals.

RFE/RL has called the fines “a state-sponsored campaign of coercion and intimidation.” U.S. President Joe Biden raised the issue of Kremlin pressure against RFE/RL’s Russian-language services at a June 16 summit with President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier this month, when the summons was issued for a new wave of fines, RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said: “We reject this effort to censor our content and silence our journalists. We are committed to continuing to serve the Russian people.”

In early June, Fly said Russia is attempting to fine RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau out of existence with the law.

“This concerted pressure on RFE/RL and other independent media in Russia is only hurting the Russian people by depriving them of information choice,” Fly said. “We will redouble our efforts to provide objective news and information to our audiences across Russia despite these outrageous attacks on our operations.”

In May, RFE/RL sued the Russian authorities over the situation in the European Court of Human Rights. In June, RFE/RL’s lawsuit was registered at the court.

The European Union has also called on Moscow to repeal the “foreign agent” law.

RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Each week, nearly 7 million people access RFE/RL’s news portals in Russia.

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