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Russia labels RFE/RL an ‘undesirable organization’

In Europe
February 20, 2024

Russia labeled Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) an “undesirable organization,” the outlet reported on Feb. 20, citing Russia’s Justice Ministry.

The law on “undesirable” organizations has existed since 2015 and has been used to target perceived opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s regime, including NGOs, independent media outlets, human rights groups, and others. As of Feb. 20, RFE/RL is the 142nd organization added to the list.

RFE/RL suspended its operations in Russia in March 2022, shortly after the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and subsequent crackdown on media in Russia.

The decision came after Russian tax authorities began bankruptcy proceedings against RFE/RL because the outlet refused to comply with the so-called “foreign agents” law requiring organizations that receive foreign funding to display a large disclaimer in all publications, regardless of format. RFE/RL also refused to pay the associated fines.

Russian lawmakers introduced a bill earlier in February to expand the purview of existing “undesirable organization” legislation to include foreign state-funded organizations.

The bill was designed to combat “sanctions, blocked investment projects, training agents of influence, interference in Russian elections, incitement of ethnic hatred, and much more,” said lawmaker Vasily Piskarev.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote that the bill would make it more difficult for journalists from Russian opposition media outlets based outside the country and foreign outlets with Russian-language services to report on domestic Russian politics, as they would be banned from entering the country.

Read also: Mediazona: Estonian PM Kaja Kallas among foreigners on Russian wanted list

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