European Federation of Journalists

EFJ and IFJ condemn ‘Foreign Agent’ labelling of leading Russian Media Freedom group

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) have today joined their affiliate, the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ), in condemning the decision of the Russian government to add the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF), a Russian media non-governmental organisation, to the Justice Ministry’s list of so-called “foreign agents” last 19 November following an unscheduled inspection.

The labelling of GDF follows a 2012 law which requires Russian-based NGOs that receive funding from abroad and engage in “political activity” to register as “foreign agents”. Under this law, organisations added to the list – around 100 groups, according to the OSCE – are required to label themselves as a ‘foreign agent’ on all published material and submit it to official scrutiny. Failure to comply would lead to fines.

The GDF, founded in 1991 to defend freedom of Russian media, has been a leading advocate of journalists’ rights and worked closely with the IFJ and EFJ on the impunity campaign to find justice for the hundreds of Russian journalists who have died since 1990. Its President, the prominent writer and film director Alexei Simonov, said that “This is all complete nonsense because the protocol the authorities presented as a justification is legally null and void. I do wish that the Justice Ministry is more meticulous about selecting its staff specialists.”

The RUJ condemned the decision as irresponsible and damaging to GDF’s reputation. “We insist on the immediate removal of the Glasnost Defense Foundation from the ‘foreign agents’ register,” said the RUJ in a statement published on 24 November.

The IFJ and the EFJ have joined their Russian affiliate showing their grave concerns about the pressure the authorities are increasingly putting on journalists and those organisations that work to defend their rights. Earlier this year, the Mass Media Defense Centre, which specializes in legal support for prosecuted journalists, was also put on the list.

“We condemn the use of this law to target and persecute one of the oldest and most respected organisations working on press freedom and helping to develop democracy in Russia,” said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. “The huge efforts of Glasnost Defense Foundation in advocating for the rights of journalists and media pluralism in the country is well known. We urge the authorities to immediately remove their name from the list.”

The EFJ had previously warned about the ‘foreign agent’ law as a new mechanism to silence independent media and critical voices. Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, the EFJ President said “Unfortunately, it has proven to be very successful as GDF is now on the ‘black list’ with other media organisations and NGOs. The government should drop this repressive law all together.” 

(Picture credit: Franck Fife/AFP)