Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has today expressed concern over the decision of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to add the independent Latvia-based news website Meduza to the list of ‘foreign agents’, thereby imposing new legal requirements on the outlet for it to continue operating in the Russian Federation.
“According to the ‘foreign agents’ law, media organisations and individuals receiving foreign funding can be required to have a legal representative in the Russian Federation, provide the government with quarterly expense reports and semi-annual reports on their activities, undergo annual audits, and face other requirements. The law also requires ‘foreign agents’ to note such status whenever they produce news or are mentioned in news articles. In cases of non-compliance, people working for ‘foreign agent’ outlets can face up to two years in prison,” specified Mr Schennach.
“This is a clear way to strangulate - legally and economically - any media outlet that criticises the government. Meduza, which recently covered protests in support of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, and the arrests and detentions of journalists throughout the country, is obviously one of the media outlets that the Russian authorities attempt to destroy,” he added.
“I call on the Russian authorities to stop preventing the media and journalists to do their job and fulfil their indispensable social mission without fear and intimidation. Russia must respect its international obligations and human rights commitments, in line with the Council of Europe standards,” concluded the rapporteur.