Russia Urged To Unfreeze Bank Accounts Of US Broadcaster

Monday, May 17, 2021 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) said Monday that Russian authorities should unfreeze the bank accounts of U.S.- funded broadcaster Radio Free /Radio Liberty and cease labeling outlets as “foreign agents.”

The appeal by the global media rights group came after Russian authorities froze the accounts of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on May 14.

Officials cited RFE/RL’s failing to pay fines issued for noncompliance with the country’s foreign agents law as the main reason for the move.

Separately that day, the Russian Justice Ministry reportedly added Stichting 2 Oktober, a Dutch journalism foundation behind independent website VTimes, to its list of foreign agents.

In a statement to Worthy News, CJP’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Gulnoza Said accused Moscow of intimidating media.

“Russian authorities should cease fining and harassing news outlets for alleged violations of its foreign agents’ law,” Said said. It is “an unjust piece of legislation that should be repealed,” the official added. “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty should be able to access its resources freely, and websites such as VTimes should not be forced to jump through hoops and risk large fines due to their ownership structures.”

Two bailiffs from the Moscow department of the Court Bailiff System of , the law enforcement arm of the Ministry of Justice, visited RFE/RL’s Moscow office on May 14.

The Russian officials reportedly served staff a document saying that the broadcaster’s accounts would be frozen over the outlet’s alleged failure to pay 5 million rubles (US $67,650) in fines.

The broadcaster fears authorities could confiscate its equipment to satisfy the fines. In total, RFE/RL faces 520 separate penalties totaling $2,400,000, according to officials familiar with the situation.

The troubles began in January, when the country’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, started issuing notices to media outlets run by RFE/RL, the CPJ recalled.

The regulator accused them of violating the foreign agents law by failing to label their content as “foreign agent-produced.”

RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau filed a suit against Russia at the European Court of , asking the court to stop the enforcement of those fines, according to a statement from the broadcaster.

Kiryl Sukhotski, RFE/RL’s regional director for Europe and TV production,
called the fines “a targeted attack against RFE/RL by Russian authorities.” In a statement, he said they amounted to “political censorship” and an effort “trying to introduce the Russian state into our editorial content.”

He added that RFE/RL’s Russian correspondents felt nervous about working amid such restrictions but added they were continuing their reporting.

It comes amid broader East-West tensions over Russia’s alleged rights violations, interference in U.S. elections, and involvement in conflicts in and .

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