Northwest-Russian news-site Sever.Realii declared ‘foreign agent’
Sever.Realii was started in September, but it didn’t go long before the news outlet came under the spotlight of authorities.
The State Duma committee established to investigate foreign political interference last week said Sever.Realii was engaged in the justification of extremism and consequently asked for the news site to be included in the registre as a ‘foreign agent’ media.
Head of the committee, Vasily Piskarev, said Sever.Realii «in two months have managed to violate a huge number of our laws.»
According to Piskarev, the news-site has propagated legalization of drugs.
Piskarev was quoted by the Federal News Agency, a media outlet tied one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, catering tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin and his infamous Troll Factory in St. Petersburg.
The day after, on November 15, the Justice Ministry included Sever.Realii in the register of foreign media acting as a ‘foreign agent’. The ministry says the decision was made on the basis of the materials received from the State Duma commission.
«This ‘foreign agent’ designation is politically motivated,» said Jamie Fly, President of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in a statement.
«It is an attempt to silence independent media in Russia and deprive Russian audiences of access to information that is not under Kremlin control,» Fly said and underlines that U.S. law guarantees Radio Free Europe’s editorial independence.
«Any suggestions that we or our journalists are agents of any government is false,» he said.
Sever.Realii is a fully owned an operated by Radio Free Europe, funded by the government of the United States.
Clear sign of censorship
Researcher on EU-Russia cross-border cooperation and journalist on human rights issues in Russia, Gleb Yarovoy, says to the Barents Observer that the case is a clear sign of censorship.
«For media-freedom in Northwest-Russia it means all and nothing,» Yarovoy explains.
«All, since it’s another clear sign that the authorities try to keep this vicious circle of censorship to keep the agenda as immaculate as possible. Northing, because it doesn’t negatively affect the perception of the reader, as well as it doesn’t prevent Sever.Realii from accomplishing its mission, which is to report profesionally and independently on what is happening in the north of Russia.»
Gleb Yarovoy has also published articles for Sever.Realii.
Yarovoy himself tells it’s personally not necessarily bad being a foreign agent.
«I feel being on the «good people’s» side,» he says.
«It’s the same story as with the NGOs, the best from the best were labelled ‘foreign agents’. I feel like a ‘foreign agent’ to the current regime, or let’s say to its evil part.»
Yarovoy believes more media outlets will be added to the Justice Ministry’s ‘foreign agent’ pillory.
«Whoever will and capable to report independently can be listed,» he says.
Other media in the spotlight
Since Russia introduced the law opening for listing foreign media as ‘foreign agents’ in 2017, eight of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty projects are included.
The registry came after the United States listed Kremlin TV-channel RT as a ‘foreign agent’ in the U.S.
Riga-based Meduza in September reported that other foreign media under watch be the Duma commitee include BBC Russian Service, MBK Media, Deutsche Welle Voice of America, Current Times and Meduza itself.
Chairperson of Barents Press Russia, Anna Kireeva, says to the Barents Observer that no media should be labeled as foreign agents.
«Putting the label ‘foreign agent’ on any media in any country is a worrying practice, as it limits freedom of speech. Journalists should not be foreign agents and label their articles,» Kireeva says and adds: «It’s a humiliating procedure.»
Barents Press is an unformal network of journalists across northernmost regions of Finland, Sweden, Russia and Norway.
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