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Russia: News outlets demand end to media crackdown

August 27, 2021

Russian journalists say the "foreign agent" law is leading media organizations to shut down. But the Kremlin insists the label is necessary to protect Russia.

Police officers detain a journalist who holds a placard which reads, "We don't stop being journalists"
Russian police recently arrested journalists protesting the foreign agent lawImage: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Several Russian media outlets on Friday demanded the end of a "state campaign" against independent journalism.

Journalists in Russia have faced mounting pressure in the run-up to parliamentary elections in September.

In recent months, Russian authorities have declared several media outlets and NGOs as "foreign agents," a label that requires them to carry out tedious administrative procedures and indicate their status on everything they publish.

Media outlets addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials in an open letter.

Russia: Kremlin faces criticism

What did the letter say?

The letter was signed by around half a dozen local media outlets and Forbes Russia, as well as the Meduza news website and Dozhd TV channel — both of which have been declared foreign agents this year.

"We, journalists and editors of Russian and Russian-language media, demand an immediate end to the state campaign against the independent press," it said.

The letter added that measures such as the "foreign agent" status "directly violate" the constitution, media laws and freedom of speech.

Meduza wrote: "These statuses either lead to media being shut down or create discriminatory conditions for them to work."

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How did the Kremlin respond?

Russian authorities said the appeals were emotional and rejected the demands laid out in the letter.

The Kremlin insisted that the designations showed that the foreign agent law was protecting Russia from foreign interference.

"The law should exist and will exist," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that it was because "NGOs and journalists are often used" by foreign countries interfering in "the affairs of our country."

However, Peskov said that how the law is being enforced "should be discussed." 

fb/aw (AFP, Reuters)