Juan Pablo Duch
La Jornada newspaper
Thursday, September 2, 2021, p. 28
Moscow. The directors of more than 20 mass media, both in the capital and in the interior of Russia, yesterday asked President Vladimir Putin to review the law that allows any newspaper, magazine, station, television channel or journalist to be classified as an agent-foreigner has received money from abroad, regardless of the sender or the amount transferred, which puts numerous obstacles to the press.
In an open letter to the President of Russia – signed by 22 directors – the journalists propose the amendments they consider indispensable after recently the Ministry of Justice hung the sambenito of agent-foreigner on Dozhd (Rain), the only television channel local that criticizes the Kremlin, that does not receive public financing and is distributed by subscription of payment via cable or Internet.
The measure was due to the fact that “it disseminated information from other ‘foreign-agent’ media and received four foreign transfers since 2016,” from foundations or companies of Russian exiles, for a total of just over the equivalent of one million pesos, which Dozhd He declared at the time and they were used for educational and cultural programs such as a poetry marathon.
That amount, according to Tijon Dziadko, the channel’s content director, equates to 0.15 percent of Dozhd’s revenue in the past five years.
For this reason, the signatories of the letter ask Putin to modify the law, which they consider to be arbitrary and a form of censorship. Among other suggestions, they believe that only a court can declare an agent-foreigner to a medium and in case it has breached the warnings for now not yet regulated, as well as that a medium whose foreign financing does not exceed 30 percent does not deserve the qualification. your budget.
Now, they say, it is at the discretion of the Ministry of Justice, without the law defining precisely the concept of political activity or the ministry having to demonstrate how the money received determines the political activity (of that medium) in the interest of a foreign government or company.
They demand that the law establish the criteria to leave the list of foreign-agent media, which should not be permanent as now and be reviewed every year, as well as simplify the procedures to declare the origin of the money received and exclude income from advertising and international press awards.
They consider that the Ministry of Justice must specify in each case for what reasons it declares a media agent-foreigner and what interests of a foreign government it serves. They consider that a journalist should not receive the double punishment of agent-foreigner in his personal capacity if he publishes in a medium that already has that status or that a medium is held responsible for spreading quotations from another medium with the label of agent-foreigner unless reproduce the entirety of a material from that one.
They ask that the law not lend itself to arbitrary interpretations and cease to have a selective application. In particular, they reject that the law includes formulations that do not adhere to the law as it can be and others like that.
Lastly, they conclude that the current list of foreign agents –there are 43 media outlets and journalists in their personal capacity–, due to deficiencies in the law and lack of transparency, should be annulled.