Two human rights groups and one media outlet, along with almost two dozen individuals, were labeled as “foreign agents” as Russia advances its crackdown on domestic opposition.
Moscow's Justice Ministry announced the labels on Wednesday for OVD-Info and Zona Prava, two human rights groups, the news outlet Mediazona and 22 people.
Mediazona has covered important court cases and police abuse in the country, saying in a statement Wednesday how difficult it will be for it to operate with the label of “foreign agent,” The Associated Press reported.
“Because of the ‘foreign agents’ label characters and sources are reluctant to talk to journalists, officials use it as an excuse not to answer our questions, other outlets prefer not to cite Mediazona (they must mention that we’re a ‘foreign agent’), and readers suffer because of the pointless disclaimer in caps,” the outlet wrote.
OVD-Info, a group that works on aiding those arrested during protests and tracks arrests at protests, told the AP they were not expecting the designation.
“We see this as being part of the pressure campaign against independent organizations and media. This didn’t start today. It’s curious that it happened at the height of the public campaign to abolish the foreign agent legislation, in which OVD-Info was one of the key initiators,” Grigory Okhotin, co-founder of the group, said.
“Of course we will continue to work as we did before, this cannot stop us. We will see which problems this will bring, but life does not get easier after such a label,” he added.
The designations come as Russia has promised to continue to crack down on opposition even after the parliamentary elections.
The country said Tuesday they were beginning an extremism probe into opposition leader Alexei Navalny, along with his allies and organizations.