Russian police detain journalists backing media freedom

International

Police detain a journalist with a poster that reads: “We will not stop being journalists” in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. Russian police have detained several journalists who protested authorities’ decision to label a top independent TV channel as a “foreign agent.” The journalists held individual pickets Saturday outside the main headquarters of the country’s top domestic security agency, the FSB, on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square. (AP Photo/Denis Kaminev)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police on Saturday detained several journalists who protested authorities’ decision to label a top independent TV channel as a “foreign agent.”

The journalists held individual pickets outside the main headquarters of the country’s top domestic security agency, the FSB, on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square.

They held placards such as “Journalism is not a crime” and “You are afraid of the truth” to protest the Justice Ministry’s move on Friday to add the Dozhd (Rain) TV channel and the online investigative outlet Vazhnye Istorii (Important Stories) to the list of “foreign agents.”

The Justice Ministry acted under a law that is used to designate as “foreign agents” non-governmental organizations and individuals who receive funding from abroad and engage in activities loosely described as political. The label implies closer government scrutiny and carries a strong pejorative connotation that could undermine the credibility of media outlets and hurt their advertising.

Dozhd denounced the move as unfair and said it would appeal.

The TV channel has been sharply critical of Russian authorities’ crackdown on dissent and regularly carried live reports from opposition protests. It has extensively covered the poisoning and the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the criminal cases launched against his allies.

Russian authorities have raised pressure on the opposition and independent media ahead of the Sept. 19 parliamentary vote, which is widely seen as important part of President Vladimir Putin to cement his rule ahead of Russia’s 2024 presidential election.

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