Russia’s Justice Ministry designates OVD-Info and Mediazona as ‘foreign agents’
Russia’s Justice Ministry designated OVD-Info and Mediazona as “foreign agents” on Tuesday, September 29, along with more than 20 individual journalists and rights activists.
OVD-Info was added to the Justice Ministry’s registry of “unregistered public associations performing the functions of a foreign agent.”
In turn, Mediazona was added to the agency’s registry of “foreign-agent media,” along with its publisher Pyotr Verzilov and editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov. The Justice Ministry also handed this designation to Mediazona’s parent company “ZP” LLC and the rights organization “Zona Prava.”
In total, 22 individuals were designated as “foreign agents.” In addition to Verzilov and Smirnov, this includes former Open Russia coordinator Artyom Vazhenkov and the leaders of a number of regional branches of the election monitoring movement Golos.
The Justice Ministry also added the Nizhny Novgorod Center for German and European Culture and the Center for Gender Studies (a civil society organization based in the Ivanovo Region) to its list of “foreign-agent NGOs.”
Since April 2021, the Russian Justice Ministry has designated the independent media outlets Meduza, VTimes, The Insider, and iStories as “foreign agents,” along with a number of journalists from Proket, RFE/RL’s Russian service, and Open Media. Proekt itself was blacklisted as an “undesirable organization.” And the news outlet Open Media and MBK Media shut down after the Russian authorities blocked their websites.
On September 14, more than 150 Russian newsrooms, NGOs, and charitable organizations launched a petition demanding the repeal of Russia’s “foreign agents” law. Since then, it has gathered more than 140,000 signatures. Shortly after the petition was published, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the law on “foreign agents” couldn’t be repealed, because it would give the West as “sense of impunity.” Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko later said that the law can only be amended.