Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has signed a law under which foreign media organizations can be classified as “foreign agents.” Russian officials have indicated that, under this law, even more restrictions may be placed on certain networks, including CNN, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VOA), and their services, including the Current Time television and digital network.
Supporters of the new Russian law, passed Saturday by the Federal Council and by the State Duma, or lower House, on Wednesday, have said that Radio Liberty, CNN, Voice of America and Germany’s Deutsche Welle could well be called upon by the Russian government to sign as foreign agents.
“RFE/RL, VOA, and the other networks of U.S. international media will remain committed to our mission,” Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing said in a statement. “To provide accurate, objective, and comprehensive journalism and other content to our global audiences, including in the Russian Federation.”
BBG journalists on assignment are harassed by Russian authorities and face extensive restrictions on their work. RFE/RL contributor Mykola Semena recently was sentenced by a Russian court for an article he wrote, and contributor Stanislav Asayev is being held by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine. RFE/RL journalists were knocked down and kicked while on assignment in Russia’s southern region of Krasnodar in March, and VOA correspondent Daniel Schearf has been denied a visa to re-enter Russia.
It is believed that the new law and possible classification of BBG outlets as “foreign agents” is in retaliation for the United States Justice Department requiring RT (Russian Television) register as a foreign agent in order to operate in the U.S.
Lansing would not speculate as to the effect that any new steps by the Russian government might have on the journalistic work the media outlets do and said that Russia’s characterization of the new law as reciprocity for U.S. actions severely distorts reality. Russian media, including RT and Sputnik, are free to operate in the United States and can be, and are, carried by U.S. cable television outlets and FM radio stations. However, U.S international media, including VOA and RFE/RL, are banned from television and radio in Russia.
“The BBG would be pleased if the current focus on reciprocity between Russian and American media ends by giving U.S. outlets – including U.S. international media such as VOA and RFE/RL – the same rights and opportunities in Russia that Russian networks have in the United States,” Lansing said.