Russian media propose amendments to ‘foreign agents’ law

Independent media propose amendments to law on foreign agents

1 September 2021

Editors of independent media outlets have asked the government to retract the current list of foreign agents and to amend the legislation.

The media community are proposing the following 12 amendments:

  • Placing a media outlet on the list of foreign agents by the Ministry of Justice must take place only under a judicial review. Before an organisation is placed on the list the editors must be forewarned.
  • The legislation must clearly define what constitutes “political activity” and “lobbying”.
  • The Ministry is required in court to define in whose interests the foreign agent is working and to demonstrate how the outlet is participating in “political activity”. Further, the Ministry must prove the connection between foreign financing and “political activity” in the interests of a particular foreign government or organisation.
  • Establish in legislation the minimal permissible share of foreign financing of media at 30%. Any amount lower than this cannot incur foreign agent status.
  • Simplify the reporting process for foreign agent media. Documents should only be sent to the Federal Tax Service within a timeframe established in law. It should also be forbidden to infringe upon a media outlet’s commercial confidentiality under the pretext of them being a foreign agent.
  • Establish in legislation a process and timeframe for a media outlet to be removed from the list of foreign agents upon meeting certain requirements. The Ministry is required to demonstrate every year that an outlet continues to act as a foreign agent.
  • Remove advertising revenue and professional awards for journalists from the purview of the legislation.
  • Compel the Ministry to publish on its website the list of foreign agents and detail why they have been put there.
  • The Ministry must apply a uniform approach to all media outlets and not distinguish between different types of organisation.
  • Cease to recognise journalists working for foreign agent media as individual foreign agents.
  • Individual foreign agents should be required to label only those messages which appear on their media platform.
  • Relieve editors of culpability for spreading information from other foreign agent media, with the exception of reproducing the material in its entirety.

The letter was published by the television channel “Dozhd” (labelled by the Ministry of Justice as a foreign agent). The letter is addressed to President Vladimir Putin, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov, and the Justice Minister Konstantin Chuichenko. The letter was signed by 22 journalists, including lead editor of “Novaya Gazeta” Dmitry Muratov, lead editor of “Kavkazsky Uzel” Grigory Shvedov, acting lead editor of KozaPress Irina Enikeeva and others.

At the end of August several Russian publications sent an open letter to Vladimir Putin and government ministers requesting to cease the persecution of independent media.


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