Law of the Week: ‘Foreign agent’ law applied to media outlets Meduza and PASMI.

Week-ending 30 April 2021

On 23 April 2021 the Russian authorities added the media outlets Meduza and PASMI to the list of ‘foreign agent’ media organisations under Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ law. Meduza is a media outlet based in Latvia set up seven years ago; PASMI is based in Russia and focuses on investigating alleged corruption. On 26 April the Committee to Protect Journalists called on the Russian authorities to reverse their decision and repeal or reform the ‘foreign agent’ law. Two days earlier the EU had also called on the the Russian government to reverse its decision and end ‘systematic infringement’ of fundamental rights and freedoms. Meduza intends to challenge the decision in court.


RFE/RL, 24 April 2021: The European Union has dismissed Russian authorities’ labeling of Latvia-based independent news outlet Meduza as a “foreign agent” and urged Moscow to end its “systematic infringement” of basic rights and freedoms for the political opposition and other Russians. Russia’s Justice Ministry announced the step — which requires organizations to label themselves as “foreign agents” and subjects them to increased government scrutiny and regulation — against the 7-year-old Meduza outlet a day earlier. “We reject the decision by the Russian authorities to include independent media outlet Meduza on the list of ‘foreign agents,’” the EU’s diplomatic service said in a statement on April 24. The bloc cited the media’s duty to “report on issues of public interest” and state authorities’ “obligation…to ensure they can do so in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation.”

CPJ, 26 April 2021: Russian authorities should reverse their decision to designate independent media outlets Meduza and PASMI as foreign agents, and should repeal or reform the country’s foreign agent law, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On April 23, Russia’s Justice Ministry added the independent Latvia-based news website Meduza to its list of “foreign agents,” thereby imposing new legal requirements on the outlet for it to continue operating in Russia, according to a statement by Meduza, news reports, and the outlet’s chief editor Ivan Kolpakov, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app. On the same day, the ministry also added PASMI, a Russia-based news outlet that covers alleged corruption, to that list, according to those reports. The outlet’s CEO and acting chief editor Dmitry Verbitsky told local outlet MBKh Media that PASMI did not receive any foreign funding and speculated that its addition to the list was “a mistake.”

The Moscow Times, 27 April 2021: Popular Russian independent news website Meduza said Monday that authorities are attempting to “kill” it with an onerous foreign agent designation that will strip it of advertising revenue and put employees at risk of jail time. The Justice Ministry declared Meduza, one of the country’s most-read news outlets, a “foreign agent” on Friday. The designation, which Meduza vows to challenge in court, requires it to slap the “foreign agent” label on all published content and report its activities to the authorities.

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