The United States accused Russia on Thursday of clamping down on freedom of expression after Moscow tightened sanctions against NGOs and the media it considers “foreign agents”.
“We are deeply concerned about the escalating repression of civil society in Russia,” Cal Brown, a deputy spokesperson for the State Department, wrote on Twitter, calling on Russia to “respect the rights of its citizens.”
“The changes to the Foreign Agents Law are particularly worrying as they allow the authorities to selectively impose onerous registration and naming requirements, object to organized activities and imprison those found to be violating,” he wrote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government classifies nongovernmental groups and the media as “foreign agents,” a term dating back to the Soviet era.
The Russian Communications Monitoring Service announced, Tuesday, that it has summoned media officials classified as “foreign agents”, to warn them not to recognize their posts in some way and to provide detailed papers about their actions or face penalties.
These include Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, funded by the United States.
Russia began categorizing these outlets as such after the Kremlin-funded RT TV channel was registered as a foreign agent in the United States in 2017, amid concerns about Russian influence in last year’s presidential election.
Under US regulations, RT must label its content on behalf of a foreign government and must report its transactions to the authorities, but its coverage is not restricted.
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