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Russia brands more media ‘foreign agents’ after journalist wins Nobel

Russian justice ministry slaps label on 9 journalists, 3 news outlets amid sweeping crackdown on independent press

A woman holds a placard reading "You can't shut up everyone!" as journalists and supporters take part in a protest against the list of "foreign agent" media in central Moscow on September 4, 2021. (Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)
A woman holds a placard reading "You can't shut up everyone!" as journalists and supporters take part in a protest against the list of "foreign agent" media in central Moscow on September 4, 2021. (Natalia KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

MOSCOW — Russian authorities on Friday labeled nine more journalists and three media organizations as “foreign agents,” part of efforts to sideline critics — hours after a Russian journalist won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

Dmitry Muratov, and fellow journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines, won the prize for their fight for freedom of expression. Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, a leading independent newspaper in Russia, said he would use the prize money to help Russian journalists facing reprisals.

Many in Russia had hoped that the prize would persuade Russian authorities to slow down their sweeping crackdown on independent media, which included dubbing critical media outlets and individual journalists as “foreign agents” — a label that carries strong pejorative connotations and implies an increased government scrutiny.

However, shortly after the Nobel Peace Prize announcement Russia’s Justice Ministry added another nine journalists and three entities to its lists of foreign agents.

They included reporters from Russian Dozhd independent TV, The New Times news outlet, BBC and the US-funded RFE/RL among others.

Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based international organization known for its open-source investigations into Russian military action in Ukraine and Syria and attacks on Kremlin opponents in Russia and abroad, was also added to the list in an apparent attempt to discourage Russians from cooperating with it.

The two other news outlets labeled as foreign agents Friday were the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) that covers events in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region and M.News online publication.

The “foreign agent” label has been widely seen as part of the authorities’ efforts to muzzle critical voices. The Kremlin, however, has denied that it is stifling freedom of speech and insists that the designation doesn’t bar media outlets from operating.

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