OSCE to US and Russia: Quit designating media as agents

OSCE media freedom representative Harlem Desir says he is worried by a series of recent measures introduced by the US and Russia.

Source: B92, Tanjug, osce.org
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(Getty Images, illustration purposes, file)
(Getty Images, illustration purposes, file)

These countries are requiring media entities from other countries to register themselves as “foreign agents," the OSCE said in a statement.

This week, the United States Department of Justice required the production company working for the Russian broadcaster RT in the United States to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the statement said, and added that on Wednesday, "in an apparent response," the Russian State Duma amended its mass media legislation, allowing authorities to designate certain media outlets as "foreign agents."

According to the information available, on the same day, several media outlets with links to the United States, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, received a notification from the Russian Ministry of Justice informing them of a likely need to register as "foreign agents," said the OSCE.

“I call on both the Unites States and the Russian Federation to reconsider and refrain from requiring media entities to register as 'foreign agents' and not take further steps," Desir said, adding that he "stood ready to offer his assistance to help both participating States, the Unites States of America and the Russian Federation, to solve this situation in line with their media freedom commitments."

The OSCE announced that Desir "wrote to the authorities of both the United States and the Russian Federation asking them for the reasons behind the requirement that certain media organizations register under legislation concerning 'foreign agents' in the respective countries," and also "asked about the consequences of these requirements in terms of the ability of the concerned media and their journalists to freely work and report in the respective states."

Desir added that the requirements to register in this way would "obviously impose additional administrative burdens upon the concerned media organizations and would stigmatize them and their journalists."

He "recalled that the OSCE participating states have voluntarily committed, including through the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, to 'make it their aim to facilitate the freer and wider dissemination of information of all kinds, to encourage co-operation in the field of information and the exchange of information with other countries, and to improve the conditions under which journalists from one participating State exercise their profession in another participating state'," the statement said.

“Branding media entities as ‘foreign agents’ is a dangerous practice, as it can narrow the space for freedom of the media,” said Desir, and stressed that "'foreign agent' legislation should not be for media - registration of media as foreign agent is not acceptable."

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