Journalists working in Russia for international media could be deemed ‘foreign agents’ if they engage in politics, officials warn

Journalists working for international outlets in Russia may be added to the foreign agents register, if they are deemed to have conducted activities “incompatible with their profession,” such as taking part in political protests.

As things stand, there is a short list of jobs eligible to be placed on the foreign agent list, mainly linked to those who receive foreign funding and conduct political activities in the interests of other countries.

On December 30, President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring that Russian individuals engaged in political activities and funded from abroad be included on the list. According to media reports, the Ministry of Justice has now suggested adding foreign journalists.

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In recent weeks, some representatives of international news outlets have been criticized for participating in protests in support of opposition figure Alexey Navalny. Many have deemed their reporting as being biased, with some suggesting they act more like activists than observers.

A document published by the ministry also revealed that they would be forced to self-report, including a declaration of their sources of funding and details of their political activities. If the money comes from an international organization, it would be compulsory to disclose its full name and details.

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As things stand, the register of foreign agents already contains three journalists, all of whom are Russian. They are US state-run RFE/RL’s Lyudmila Savitskaya, 7×7’s Sergey Markelov, and Denis Kamalyagin, the editor-in-chief of newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya.

In December last year, they were part of the first group of individuals added to the list. Prior to then, the register only included organizations.

Russia’s foreign agent law was passed in 2012, and initially required politically-active NGOs with foreign funding to declare it. Over the years, the law has gradually expanded and now includes “undesirable organizations.”

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