Russia’s parliament on November 21 passed a bill that allows the government to identify individuals as “foreign agents.” The nomenclature could apply, in particular, to journalists who work with or for media outlets already deemed “foreign agents” or who distribute these outlets’ content online.
Andrei Palkin, a regional parliamentarian from the ruling United Russia Party, told Current Time that the move was needed to restrict the activities of an alleged “fifth column.”
Critics, though, see the law as a move that could drastically affect the work of Russia’s few independent journalists.
Describing the law as “reminiscent of the darkest times in Russia’s past,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Jamie Fly underlined in a statement that it is “a further step toward ensuring that the Russian people only receive the information the Kremlin wants them to.”
In 2017, the Russian government declared Current Time TV, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and several of its services, plus the Voice of America – all funded by the U.S. Congress -- to be foreign agents.
Russian officials attributed the decision to a U.S. requirement that the Kremlin-financed RT and Sputnik media outlets register as foreign agents in the U.S.
Russia first passed a bill in 2012 that required all foreign-financed non-governmental organizations to register as “foreign agents” with the Justice Ministry. Supporters described the law as a defense against alleged outside attempts to meddle in Russian politics.