Russia’s Restrictions on Foreign Media Are the Latest Curbs on Press Freedom

Russia’s Restrictions on Foreign Media Are the Latest Curbs on Press Freedom
Journalists look on from the balcony as Russian lawmakers prepare to vote in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, Moscow, Russia, Dec. 6, 2017 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

Editor’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing series about press freedom and safety in various countries around the world.

On Dec. 5, Russia designated two U.S. government-funded broadcasters, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as “foreign agents,” under a new law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in late November. The moves came in response, Moscow says, to the United States forcing the Russia-backed news broadcaster RT, formerly known as Russia Today, to register as a foreign agent on Nov. 13. U.S. intelligence agencies described RT as “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine” in their assessment earlier this year that it was part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 American presidential election. In an email interview, Svetlana Pasti, a senior researcher at the Center for Journalism, Media and Communication at the University of Tampere in Finland, explains how legislation has been used as a cudgel against the press in Russia and looks at the state of independent Russian media overall.

WPR: How has legislation been used to promote or stifle a free press in Russia? And how might the latest piece of legislation requiring foreign journalists and media outlets to register as foreign agents have an impact?

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