Every day, President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin getting closer to the era when the Soviet Union had complete control over what the Russian people could see, hear, and read.
Under the new “Foreign Agent” designation, the Kremlin can now crackdown on all independent news outlets and reports that are diametrically opposed to government-run, funded, and controlled outlets like Sputnik and RT (Russia Today).
The Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s main security agency, released a 60-point list of information on Tuesday that “states, organizations and foreign citizens can use against the security of Russia.”
Covering any crimes involving the military, troop deployments, training, and structure of Russia’s armed forces and other security organizations qualifies a media outlet as a “foreign agent.”
The Kremlin initially enacted the “foreign agent” law in response to RT and Sputnik being forced to register as such in the United States. In Russia, that designation has now been extended to virtually all non-Kremlin-controlled news organizations.
On August 20, TV Rain (Dozhd), the country’s largest independent online broadcaster, was designated a foreign agent. The investigative website Vazhnye Istorii (IStories), its editor-in-chief, and five of the site’s journalists were also named as foreign agents on the same day.
The FSB detained several journalists who protested outside the FSB headquarters with signs reading “Journalism is Not a Crime” and “You are Afraid of the Truth.”
Entities with the foreign agent designation are required to submit quarterly financial reports and include boilerplate text stating their designation on everything they publish, including social media posts.
The Kremlin’s registry of foreign agent media has forced a number of labeled outlets to close down after the designation drove advertisers away.
The Insider’s editor-in-chief, Roman Dobrokhotov, who enraged the Kremlin with his investigation into the poisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, claims the FSB has made him a wanted man and forced him to flee to Ukraine.
Aleksandr Ionov, a self-styled human rights defender with ties to the Russian government and the FSB, appears to be behind the latest crackdown on independent journalism in Russia.
Ionov founded Russia’s Anti-Globalization Movement (ADR). Honorary members of the organization include Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, none of whom are known human rights defenders.
CNN reported on “troll farms” operating from Ghana during the protests and riots that erupted in the United States following the death of George Floyd. According to the reporters, these troll farms focused almost entirely on racial issues in the United States, promoting black empowerment and expressing anger toward white Americans. Troll farms were linked to Ionov’s ADR.
Despite claiming to be a human rights defender, Ionov has written to the Russian censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, about a storey published by the independent media outlet Medusa.
ADR also received a one-million-ruble grant from the National Charitable Foundation, which was founded by President Putin and supports military and patriotic projects under the Kremlin’s patronage.
Ionov also assisted Alexander Malkevich, a US-approved political strategist, in crowdfunding efforts to support Maria Butina, who was imprisoned in the US at the time after being convicted of conspiring to act as a foreign government’s agent.
Malkevich is linked to oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Russian Wagner Group and “Putin’s chef.” In an email, Malkevich allegedly told British journalist Sterling Jones that he was avoiding US sanctions by donating money to pay Butina’s legal bills through Ionov’s ADR.
The Russian “foreign agent” law requires independent media to disclose their funding sources and to include a disclaimer in capital letters above every post they publish, warning viewers that they are about to read content from a foreign agent. If print and television media outlets do not comply, they will face fines, criminal charges, and even a complete publication ban.
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