Russia Fines RFE/RL for ‘Foreign Agent’ Law Violation

The Russian government has levied a fine against the U.S. government-sponsored media outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for violating the country’s “foreign agent” law. The $150,000 fine was assessed by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media regulatory body.  Russia first designated RFE/RL, a sister organization of the Voice of America (VOA), a foreign agent in 2017, a step some say made its work in Russia more difficult. According to the Reuters news agency, Russia has fined the outlet several times in recent weeks. The foreign agent law gives a wide berth for the Russian government to erect bureaucratic hurdles to any nongovernmental group that receives foreign funding, Reuters reported. RFE/RL says it plans to appeal the latest fine. “We have court hearings about three times a week, and we get fined at each one,” Andrei Shary, head of RFE/RL’s Russian Service, said in an interview with the RIA news agency. “The company considers this to be unfair. Every court decision will be appealed.”
“The Kremlin’s latest move is clearly intended to limit USAGM’s ability to operate and report independently and objectively within Russia. It is unacceptable,” USAGM acting CEO Kelu Chao told VOA.  FILE – Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, attends a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019.Congressman Michael McCaul expressed support for RFE/RL. “We’re seeing the Putin regime cracking down on free speech and on the ability of Radio Free Europe and Voice of America to operate out there in Moscow,” he told VOA’s Russian Service. “I think you’re going to see a very strong movement by the United States Congress, but I would urge that the [U.S.] president talk directly to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin about this with condemnation about the ability to have free speech in his own country and to get the truth out. And that’s what Voice of America and Radio Free Europe do,” he added.VOA Russian Service’s Danila Galperovich contributed to this report.