Russia introduces large fines for journalists deemed foreign agents

Russian President Putin signed into law a controversial amendment to the Administrative Violation Code on December 16, which will allow for journalists deemed ‘foreign agents’ to be fined up to 1590 dollars or be jailed for fifteen days for repeated violations. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns this move which it warned could be used to silence independent media.

Photocredit: Mohamed Hassan

The updated code, which came in to effect on 4 December, would enable freelance reporters, freelance bloggers, and individual journalists who work for foreign funded organizations to be labeled as foreign agents. The  amendment signed on December 16 sets out penalties for media workers and organizations.

The Administrative Violation Code sets out the administrative repercussions for offences mentioned in various fields of the Russian law. According to the “foreign agent law”, once a media organization is branded as a “foreign agent”, it is obliged to first establish a Russian entity in order to continue operating in the country. Individuals marked as “foreign agents” must publicly label this status on their work and submit extensive paperwork to the authorities.

According to the new amendment, individuals who disobey the Violations Code more than twice within a 12-month period, will receive a fine of up to 10,000 rubles (159 dollars) for the first violation. The fine can go up to 100,000 rubles or 1590 dollars for repeated offenses.

Organizations will be fined up to 1 million rubles (15,900 dollars) for the first violation and up to 5 million rubles (79,500 dollars) for subsequent violations. Since the first version of the law came into effect in November 2017, several organizations have been labeled as "foreign agents", including Radio Free Europe. 

The Russian Union of Journalists  (RUJ) had criticised the original legislation and proposed amendments to the draft law, demanding greater transparency and action to minimise any threats to freedom of speech.

The IFJ denounced the foreign agents law in 2017, after the Russian government allowed for mass media organizations to be labeled as foreign agents if they received funding from overseas. This was seen as retaliation to a request by the United States, to register the Russian RT news organization as a foreign agent. 

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

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