Prague-Based Media Group Fined By Russia For Violation Of 'Foreign Agent' Law

PRAGUE -- The Prague-based MEDIUM-ORIENT news agency has been fined in Russia for failing to follow the requirements of Russia's controversial "foreign agent" law.

Islam Tekushev, the editor in chief of the online Caucasus Times journal founded by MEDIUM-ORIENT, told RFE/RL that he was informed on December 20 of a ruling a week earlier by the Taganka district court to fine the journal 500,000 rubles ($6,730) for violating the law on "foreign agents."

Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor added the media group, which is registered in the Czech Republic, to the list of "foreign agents" a year ago.

According to Tekushev, all materials published by the Caucasus Times had been appropriately marked as produced by an outlet added to the "foreign agents" registry after Roskomnadzor officially accused the journal in October of failing to do so.

Tekushev, who is a former RFE/RL employee, added that his media outlet was most likely fined for the absence of the "foreign agent" mark on older archived materials, which he said need time to be located and marked.

Russia's “foreign agent” legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly despite repeated criticism within Russia and abroad as being an unjustified assault on independent media and civil society.

It requires nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign assistance and are deemed by the government to engage in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.

Later modifications of the law targeted foreign-funded media.

Lawyer Lidia Anasova said the court's ruling will be appealed at the Moscow City Court as the law on "foreign agents" violates the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Oleg Orlov of the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center, which was also labeled a foreign agent, said the main goal of authorities in targeting MEDIUM-ORIENT is to "restrict journalists' activities" in the Caucasus.

In 2017, the Russian government added RFE/RL’s Russian Service, six other RFE/RL Russian-language news services, and Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, on the list.

At the end of 2020, the legislation was modified to allow the Russian government to place individuals, including foreign journalists, on its “foreign agents” media list and impose restrictions on them. Several RFE/RL journalists have since been added to the list.