Five easy ways to become a ‘foreign agent’

Roskomnadzor claim and five more easy ways to become a foreign agent


A representative from the Ministry of Justice has been explaining why the Dozhd television channel has been included on the foreign agents’ register.

Roman Tsyganov, Deputy Director of the Ministry’s Department for CSOs, attended a recent meeting of the Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC).

“As far as Dozhd is concerned, we discovered that the claim had come from two sources: Roskomnadzor and Rosfinmonitoring. The former reported that the television channel was distributing material produced by foreign media and individuals performing the functions of a foreign agent, and the latter that Dozhd was in receipt of funds from foreign sources”, said Eva Merkacheva, a member of the HRC.

No indication was given on what kind of financing was involved nor was any amount disclosed. “The law does not prescribe a minimum threshold, in fact you can be put on an “enemies” register just for receiving one dollar”, said Merkacheva.

The Ministry’s representative could not clarify whether Roskomnadzor had been asked to check if a routine inspection of Dozhd had been made. However, Tsyganov did answer questions about how a media outlet recognised as a foreign agent is supposed to operate. Two ways are possible: the first option is via the courts and the second is to contact Roskomnadzor after some time has elapsed and tell them that the law is no longer being broken. Roskomnadzor would verify this information, then apply to the Ministry of Justice to have the outlet removed from the register, “It seems to me that this way doesn’t really work at all”, said Merkacheva.

Five more ways to become a foreign agent

During the HRC meeting, Tsyganov was asked about other media outlets and journalists who have been classed as foreign agents. Based on the answers he gave, Merkacheva drew a number of conclusions that reflect the Ministry’s attitudes towards the media:

If a journalist goes on a press tour paid for by a foreign organisation, would he or she be regarded as a foreign agent? The answer is “yes”.

If a journalist attended an international conference where he or she stayed at the organiser’s expense, would he or she be regarded as a foreign agent? The answer is “yes”.

If a journalist takes part in and wins an international competition and has his/her trip to collect the award paid for, would he or she be regarded as a foreign agent? The answer is “yes”.

If a journalist has friends and relatives living abroad who send him/her a monetary gift for their birthday, would he or she be regarded as a foreign agent? The answer is “yes”.

Does a journalist or media outlet have to prove they are politically active to be regarded as a foreign agent? The answer is “no” as this only applies to CSOs.

Merkacheva added that the HRC’s Standing Committee on Human Rights is drafting proposals to amend the law on foreign agents. “These will include a three-stage system (i.e. firstly, there would initially be a warning, then a fine and only at the third stage, inclusion on the register)”, writes Merkacheva.

I would much prefer that claims originating from citizens and organisations are not considered and that decisions on assigning foreign agent status should only be taken as a result of a routine inspection carried out by government agencies. There is no need for whistle-blowers.

Members of the HRC are hoping to present their proposals to the Russian President at the Council’s next meeting, said Merkacheva on the Ekho Moskvi radio station.


Translated by Neil Hailey

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