Russia: Astronomical fine is “death sentence” for opposition New Times magazine

Читать на русском / Read in Russian

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the astronomical fine of 22.25 million roubles (300,000 euros) that has been imposed on The New Times, an online opposition magazine based in Moscow. If the fine is upheld on appeal, the magazine will be forced to close.

Editor Evgenia Albats and her lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov, announced today that authorities had ordered the magazine to pay this fine for failing to provide requested information about alleged foreign funding in time.

Financial difficulties already forced the magazine to stop producing a print edition in June 2017, so this fine, if confirmed, is tantamount to a death sentence.

“This astronomical fine is yet another blow to Russia’s independent media, which are under more pressure than ever,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “We urge the courts to overturn this sentence, which it is out of all proportion. The Russian authorities must stop criminalizing civil society and its links with organizations abroad.”

The prosecutor’s office wants to know about the funding that The New Times has received from a Russian NGO that has been classified as a “foreign agent,” the Press Freedom Support Foundation.

Since 2012, Russian civil society organizations that receive international funding have been required by law to put the ignominious “Foreign Agent” stamp on everything they publish and must provide detailed financial accounts to avoid astronomical fines or summary closure.

The civil society organizations affected by this draconian legislation initially included Russia’s leading media support NGOs. It was extended to media outlets in December 2017.

Russia is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.