Russia Designates NGO In Yakutia As ‘Foreign Agent’

A journalist holds a placard which reads "Foreign agents yourself" near the headquarters of Federal Security Service in Moscow (file photo)  

The Russian Justice Ministry has designated a human rights organization in the Far Eastern region of Yakutia a “foreign agent," as the authorities continue to tighten their grip on civil society across the country.

The nongovernmental group Yakutia – Our Opinion appeared on the list of "foreign media agents” on October 14, bringing the number of people and organizations on the register to 86.

The head of the organization, Stepan Petrov, was designated in August. He has written about corruption in Yakutia and called for a criminal investigation into the activities of the region’s head, Aisen Nikolaev.

Being labeled as a “foreign agent” obligates individual journalists and media organizations to register with authorities and label their content with an intrusive disclaimer, with criminal fines for not doing so.

That has led to several media organizations shutting down as they lose revenues from spooked advertisers.

The designation also restricts other media from citing a “foreign agent” organization without including a disclaimer.

Hours after the editor in chief of Russia’s best-known independent newspapers won the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, the Justice Ministry designated a dozen new journalists and media organizations, including five RFE/RL journalists, in what RFE/RL President Jamie Fly called “just the latest attempt to silence independent media in Russia.”

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