ontario news watch

Russia puts widely read news site on 'foreign agents' list

MOSCOW — Russia's justice ministry has placed a widely respected news website on its list of "foreign agents," a sign of increasing efforts to crack down on reporting critical of authorities.

The order announced Friday affects Meduza, a Latvia-based Russian-language news site covering Russian affairs.

In 2019, its investigative reporter Ivan Golunov, who focused on Moscow City Hall and the city's crime-ridden funeral industry, was arrested, reportedly beaten, and charged with drug crimes that could have put him in prison for 20 years. After a public outcry, the charges were dropped; five former police officers were later charged with trying to frame him.

Russian law obliges groups or news outlets that receive foreign funding to identify their work as being done by "foreign agents," which could discredit them because of the term's pejorative connotation.

"'Foreign agent' is a discriminatory status that will make it harder for us to do our job and make a living," Meduza said in a statement.

Russia in recent months has used the law to levy heavy fines on US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for failing to identify its material as produced by "foreign agents." The broadcaster, which says the fines could soon total more than $2 million, has asked the European Court of Human Rights to intercede.

The Associated Press