St. Petersburg activist sues Russian Justice Ministry over ‘foreign agent’ label
St. Petersburg activist and Russian-language teacher Daria Apakhonchich, who was declared a “foreign agent” in December 2020, has filed a lawsuit against the Russian Justice Ministry over the illegality of this decision.
In a message to Meduza, the human rights group Agora said that the lawsuit was filed with St. Petersburg’s Leninsky District Court. Apakhonchich is being represented by Agora lawyer Alexander Peredruk.
Apakhonchich’s lawsuit maintains that the Russian Justice Ministry violated the norms of Russian and international law by adding her to the government’s list of “foreign-agent media.” According to the activist, this goes against the principle of equality guaranteed by the Russian constitution, and violates her right to freedom of expression and respect for private life.
According to Apakhonchich, there is no basis for qualifying her as foreign-agent media, because she has never received funds or other assets from foreign sources in exchange for creating or distributing information. As such, she is demanding that the Justice Ministry provide evidence to the contrary in court.
Daria Apakhonchich was among the first Russian citizens to be added to the registry of media outlets and individuals that allegedly “fulfill the function of foreign agents.” This decision from the Justice Ministry became known in December 2020.
In late 2019, the Russian State Duma adopted a law allowing for individuals to be added to the list of foreign-agent media. A person can be slapped with this designation if they receive any foreign funding and distribute “printed, audio, audiovisual, and other messages and materials intended for the general public.” This includes any information shared online.
A person deemed a foreign agent is required to establish a legal entity through which they can interact with the Justice Ministry. They also have to add a “foreign agent” label to all of their “materials.” Failure to comply is considered an administrative violation.
In December 2020, the State Duma adopted another law allowing for the foreign agent label to be applied to anyone involved in “political activity in the interests of foreign governments” or the “targeted collection of information” concerning Russia’s military and military-technical activities.