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Russia's Justice Ministry warns the U.S.-government-funded media outlet ‘Current Time’ that will be treated as a foreign agent

Source: Current Time

The Russian Justice Ministry has threatened to restrict the activities of the independent U.S.-government-funded television network Current Time on the grounds that the news outlet “shows signs of performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

Current Time published a letter from the Justice Ministry on Wednesday, where Russian officials warn that draft legislation imposing new limits on foreign agents in the news media will likely be enforced against Current Time, if the law is adopted by the federal government (which is likely).

In its letter, the Justice Ministry did not specify what “restrictions” Current Time will face as a foreign agent.

On November 15, the State Duma passed a law allowing the Justice Ministry to add foreign media outlets to Russia’s foreign agents registry, if the outlets are based outside Russia and receive funding from abroad. The legislation still needs the approval of the Federation Council and President Putin.

Foreign media outlets recognized by Russia’s Justice Ministry as foreign agents can face criminal liability for refusing to fulfill the obligations of this status, State Duma deputy Evgeny Revenko stated on national television this Wednesday. The maximum penalty for such actions is two years in prison.

In July 2012, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a package of amendments on federal laws regulating the activities of nonprofit organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent. Currently, the law applies to nonprofit organizations conducting “political activity” while receiving foreign funding. Since 2014, the Justice Ministry has added 87 organizations to its list of “foreign agents,” including human rights groups, charities, environmentalist organizations, and others, whose work is supported by foreign grants.

Foreign agent registrants in Russia are subjected to “foreign agent” labeling requirements and other auditing regulations, but their staff aren’t forced to disclose any personal data. After an organization is registered as a foreign agent in Russia, it is subjected to regular and often crippling government audits.