The Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called on the Russian parliament, or Duma, to halt the adoption of a bill that will allow the Kremlin to label individuals who work for foreign media organisations, or who receive funding from abroad, as ‘foreign agents’.
In her statement, Mijatovic emphasised that “extending the scope and definition of the concept of a ‘foreign agent’ would deal a major blow to media freedom and people’s ability to receive and impart information,” adding, “Instead of adopting legislation that aims at intimidating and silencing journalists, human rights defenders, and other individuals, the authorities of the Russian Federation should thoroughly review the current legislation in order to bring it in line with European and international human rights standards.”
Mijatovic added that adopting this sort of law is “incompatible with international human rights standards” as Moscow looks to expand the scope of its crackdown on individuals and companies who try and work independently from the Kremlin.
If Russian President Vladimir Putin signs the law, all materials published by a person receiving money from abroad will be marked as distributed by a foreign agent. In addition, any person who distributes foreign media can be flagged as a foreign agent.
In November 2017, Putin signed a law that classifies media outlets who receive funding from abroad as ‘foreign agents’. Russia’s Ministry of Justice has since classified dozens of media outlets as ‘foreign agents’, including the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.