Law of the Week: First lawsuits under the ‘foreign agent’ law against individuals for non-compliance

Week-ending 15 October 2021

Novaya gazeta reported on 12 October 2021 that the first lawsuits have been brought against individual journalists and human rights activists for failing to comply with the requirements of the ‘foreign agent’ law. The two lawsuits were brought against prominent Moscow-based human rights defender Lev Ponomarev and a journalist from Siberia, Stepan Petrov.


The Moscow Times, 12 October 2021: Russia has launched its first lawsuits against individual journalists and human rights activists for what it deems as noncompliance with the country’s controversial “foreign agent” law. An administrative case was opened against veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov, 80, for failing to include a mandated disclaimer announcing his status as a “foreign agent” on a series of social media posts, the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported Tuesday. Russian authorities also opened a case against Siberian journalist Stepan Petrov, former editor of the “Yakutia — Our Opinion” regional news site, which was liquidated after it was named a “foreign agent” earlier this year, according to a human rights organization representing Petrov.

RFE/RL, 9 October 2021: Russia added a dozen new journalists and media organizations to its “foreign agents” list, including RFE/RL reporters and the open-source investigative group Bellingcat, as authorities tightened their grip on independent journalism in the country. […] Aside from Bellingcat, the Justice Ministry on October 8 designated five RFE/RL journalists: Tatyana Voltskaya, Ekaterina Klepikovskaya, and Elena Solovyova, who collaborate with RFE/RL’s Russian Service and its North Desk; Elizaveta Surnacheva, a Russian journalist who works for Current Time in Kyiv; and Current Time freelance TV journalist Roman Perl.

RFE/RL, 12 October 2021: Media defense lawyer Galina Arapova says she now feels a little bit like Brezhnev, having become the first person designated by the Russian government as a “foreign agent” not once, but twice. 

CPJ, 12 October 2021: Russian authorities should stop labeling journalists and media outlets as “foreign agents” and should allow the press to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

The Moscow Times, 13 October 2021: President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Russian newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov would not “shield” him from being branded a “foreign agent” if he breaks the law.

RFE/RL, 14 October 2021: The Russian Justice Ministry has designated a human rights organization in the Far Eastern region of Yakutia a “foreign agent,” as the authorities continue to tighten their grip on civil society across the country.

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