Russia calls independent TV broadcaster a “foreign agent” lifestyle


Russia added the independent television broadcaster Dozhd (TV Rain) to a growing list of media “foreign agents” on Friday as liberal organizations in the country face increasing pressure.

The station first went on air in 2010, but was discontinued four years later by major cable operators in a so-called intimidation campaign.

It is fully online now and one of the few remaining media outlets to be critical of the government.

On Friday, in a move condemned by Amnesty International, the Russian Justice Ministry added Dozhd to its list of media organizations “acting as foreign agents”.

Organizations declared as overseas agents must disclose funding sources and tag or face fines on all of their publications, including social media posts.

The label can also be off-putting to advertisers.

While Dozhd is subscription based, advertising revenue is a major source of funding for the channel.

The station has received funding from the European Union since 2014, in particular for creating programs to promote European values ​​in Russia, according to management.

“The Dozhd Channel is not a foreign agent … it is a Russian media company,” its editor-in-chief Tikhon Dziadko said on the Telegram messaging app.

The broadcaster will appeal against the decision, “which is contrary to the law and common sense,” said Dziadko.

“Of course we will continue as before,” he said.

The Latvian-based investigation company iStories and its editor-in-chief Roman Anin and five other journalists were also slapped on Friday with the label “foreign agent”.

In May, police ransacked Anin’s home and questioned him about an investigation into the alleged wealth of a Russian tycoon in 2016.

Amnesty condemned the decision, accusing the Kremlin of “launching a campaign against independent media aimed at rooting out unbiased journalism and investigative reporting” and calling for the “Foreign Agents” Act to be abolished.

The Justice Department’s decision on Friday comes after several other independent news groups in Russia were recently banned or hit with the same label.

Two other respected independent media outlets – Meduza, VTimes, and The Insider – were branded as foreign agents this year.

In July, the investigation company Proekt was declared an “undesirable organization” which essentially bans its work in Russia on the threat of fines or imprisonment.

Russia has also blocked the websites of two media and human rights groups linked to self-exiled Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, Russia has been accused of suppressing all forms of freedom of expression on television, but online media have long been relatively free.

In recent months, the Russian authorities have increased the pressure on independent media, especially in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in September.