On Friday, May 14, Russia’s Justice Ministry designated the news outlet VTimes as a “foreign agent.” This comes less than a month after the Russian authorities added Meduza to the same government registry.
Like Meduza at its genesis, VTimes was founded in 2020 by journalists fleeing another news organization where they’d worked for many years. They left in protest against the actions of new owners.
Like Meduza, VTimes is a private media company registered abroad. Like Meduza, VTimes earns its money in Russia and appeals primarily to a Russian audience. The news outlet’s employees are Russians whose lives are tangled inextricably with Russia.
Like Meduza, VTimes adheres to the principles of high-quality journalism and honors its own strict rules. Like at Meduza, content from VTimes is free of state and corporate influence. This is Russian independent journalism at its finest.
For the Russian authorities, however, any media outlet that doesn’t ultimately depend on them is a “foreign agent.”
In recent weeks, following Meduza’s designation, many have joked bitterly that “foreign agent” status is a badge of quality. But we know from our own experience that this designation only qualitatively degrades a news organization’s livelihood.
The Russian authorities are simply lying when they claim that “foreign agents” are free to practice journalism unencumbered. The only reason for this status is to rob designated media outlets of advertising revenue, frighten sources and news-story subjects away from talking to correspondents, and make readers think twice before sharing hyperlinks to content published by “foreign agents.”
The Russian government’s use of “foreign agent” status is a monstrous injustice and a bonafide disaster for any independent media outlet. Unfortunately, we have no reason to think that the authorities will stop with Meduza and VTimes.
We express our complete support for our colleagues at VTimes and hope that the publication manages to survive this vicious blow.
In 2021, independent media outlets in Russia need readers’ support to survive. You can make a donation to VTimes right here (in Russian).
Meduza is you.
We’re only here thanks to you.