Court orders Radio Liberty to pay fine and its journalist accused of “justifying terrorism” loses appeal
WASHINGTON – During the appeal of Russian journalist Svetlana Prokopyeva, the prosecutor accused her of being a “mouthpiece for the West.”
Following the hearing, the court upheld her conviction for “justifying terrorism.”
The hearing took place amid lawsuits filed by Russian authorities against her employer, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
In January, a Russian court fined the independent US-funded news network for non-compliance with the law on foreign agents.
According to regional analysts, the Russian government’s lawsuits against RFE/RL are an attempt to restrict access to independent media.
The fines imposed on RFE/RL show that Russia is enforcing these laws, Gulnoza Said of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists told Voice of America.
The network was fined 1.1 million rubles in January for failing to comply with Russia’s foreign agent’s law.
Under amendments to the law, media outlets that receive foreign funding must label their content as being produced by “foreign agents.”
The amendments to the law have been criticized by international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, which said in a statement last year that the law is a new attempt by authorities to “suppress dissent.
“[The law] puts a stigmatizing ‘foreign agent’ stigma on individuals, just as it has done for several years for independent NGOs that ‘engage in political activities in the interests of foreign states,'” said Amnesty International Russia researcher Natalia Prilutskaya.
Moscow made other changes to the law in 2017 in response to Washington’s demands that all U.S.-based Russian media outlets register as foreign agents.
According to U.S. lawmakers, RFE/RL refused to comply with the revised law “out of concern that it would discredit their work.”
In a letter to President Joe Biden, the lawmakers urged the administration to make clear to Russia that the restrictions imposed on RFE/RL are unacceptable and “will have serious consequences.
Requiring international media outlets to label their content as produced by a foreign agent goes back to Soviet times and creates distrust among readers and audiences, Said told Voice of America, adding that “the ultimate goal is to keep the Russians from using this information.”
The press office of the Russian embassy in Washington did not respond to Voice of America’s request for comment.
However, leading supporter of the foreign agent’s legislation, Federation Council member Andrei Klimov said, according to the New York Times, that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty “has nothing to do with journalism,” but only follows “direct instructions from the State Department.”