Moscow, Dec 5, 2017 (AFP) – 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 last month allowing international media to be slapped with the controversial label.
The ministry on its website posted a statement saying that U.S.-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and seven of their media affiliates have been recognised as “carrying out the functions of a foreign agent.”
Russia last month hastily issued legislation allowing the measure to target media in a retaliatory move after Kremlin-funded RT television registered itself as a “foreign agent” in the United States under official pressure.
Radio Free Europe and Voice of America had already been formally warned by the justice ministry that they risked recognition as “foreign agents.”
The justice ministry has now formalised this, naming them and their affiliates, including Radio Free Europe’s news sites dedicated to regions including Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine, and the Caucasus and a television channel run jointly by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America called Telekanal Nastoyashchyeye Vremya.
The 2012 law previously applied only to non-governmental organisations that had international funding.
Those branded “foreign agents” have to present themselves as such on all paperwork and submit to intensive scrutiny of their staffing and financing.
Many NGOs have closed down as a result, saying the measure made it too difficult for them to operate.
Rights groups fear the measure applied to media could have a chilling effect on the ability of outlets to carry out independent reporting.