Russian court fines US-funded outlets for violating foreign agents laws

Russian court fines US-funded outlets for violating foreign agents laws
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A Russian court slapped a fine on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on Thursday after it determined that the U.S. government-funded news outlet had failed to comply with Russian foreign agents laws.

RFE/RL was ordered to pay 100,000 rubles — about $1,600 — for failing to file the proper paperwork required of foreign agents, the news outlet reported. The ruling came eight months after RFE/RL was labeled a "foreign agent" by the Russian government.

Thomas Kent, the president of RFE/RL, blasted the ruling, calling it a "sharp new escalation in a series of Russian actions aimed at hamstringing the work of the company and at casting public suspicion on its Russian staff."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law last year a measure allowing his country's Justice Ministry to brand media outlets that receive foreign funding as "foreign agents."

But so far, only RFE/RL, the U.S.-funded Voice of America (VOA) and their affiliated news outlets have been labeled foreign agents under the law, prompting allegations that the designations are politically motivated.

RFE/RL and VOA are both overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent U.S. government agency. Unlike VOA, however, RFE is a private nonprofit organization that is funded through U.S. grants.

The Russian law came in response to the Russian state-owned media outlet RT being forced to register as a foreign agent in the U.S. amid growing concerns about Moscow's efforts to interfere in American politics.

Kent said the Russian law, however, had hindered the news outlet's ability to gather news and had put its staff in Russia in danger, according to RFE/RL.

"Suggestions that we are agents of any government are false," he said. "They have already affected our ability to gather news in Russia, and they create danger for our people there."