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Russia labels Deutsche Welle a 'foreign agent'

March 28, 2022

DW has been put on a list of "foreign agents" in Russia, which includes a number of foreign media operations as well as NGOs that receive funding from abroad.

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DW is Germany’s international broadcaster Image: picture alliance/dpa/Oliver Berg

Russia's Justice Ministry on Monday placed Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) on a list of "foreign agents." 

"This decision was made based on the documents received from the authorized state authorities," the ministry said in a statement. The statement didn't elaborate on the documents or authorities in question.

In response, DW Director General Peter Limbourg said: "This latest, arbitrary decision by the Russian authorities was unfortunately to be expected. It is a further attack on press freedom and a fresh attempt to cut the Russian population off from free, independent media. It started with the forced closure of our studio in Moscow at the beginning of February, then our website in all languages was blocked in Russia. There then followed the gradual restriction of social media services and now DW has been labeled a 'foreign agent.' This will not stop us from continuing to provide comprehensive and independent coverage of Russia and the region from our new studio in Latvia and from Germany. We will have to put a lot more effort into censorship circumvention tools in the future. This includes VPN clients like Psiphon or the Tor browser, which we already use."

DW in Russia

On February 3, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would take "retaliatory measures against the German media" working in Russia after German authorities banned the state-run Russian TV channel "RT DE."

This included "recognizing DW as a foreign media outlet fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

DW was forced to shutter its Moscow office and its journalists in Russia had to relinquish their accreditation, making it impossible to work in Russia. 

In early March, DW's website was  blocked by state communications regulator Roskomnadzor.

Shortly after, DW moved its Moscow office to the Latvian capital Riga. 

"The Russian government has clearly declared an 'information war' on DW," said Christian Trippe, DW Director of Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe. "We journalists continue to do our work and provide reliable information for our target audience in Russia." 

DW (Deutsche Welle) is Germany's international public broadcast service. It is tax-funded and produces freely accessible journalism in 32 languages.

The Federal Republic of Germany's Broadcasting Council — an independent, non-partisan body free of government influence — oversees DW's compliance with its legal mandate to supply people around the world with independent information. DW employs roughly 4,000 individuals, most of whom work at studios in Bonn and Berlin.

What is the 'foreign agent' list?

Since 2012, the list has been used to curtail the operations of international media outlets as well as non-profits that receive foreign funding, particularly those that are active in politics or report on corruption.

It requires that all publications on the list be marked as coming from a "foreign agent," and submit a report on their activities every 6 months.

Over 100 media outlets and individuals are currently on the list, including US public broadcasters Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.