Putin signs new “foreign agent” law that could help him silence even more voices
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed laws that allow Russian authorities to declare individuals associated with media production as foreign agents. This expansion of power adapts the “foreign agent” legislation from 2012 that could be used to silence dissenting voices. The bill has been widely criticized by many human rights organizations, despite Russia’s claim that it was a necessary measure to protect Russia’s best interests. If individuals have their content funded or distributed by media organizations previously designated as foreign agents, the individual, in turn, may be declared a foreign agent.
Putin proposed the amendments in 2017, but recently they were brought back into consideration following widespread street protests opposing the government over the summer. The amendments received almost unanimous support in both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly. Rights activists launched a petition urging Putin not to sign the bill, concerned that it would allow authorities to greatly limit free speech in Russia. Many expressed concerns over the wording of the bill, which does not require a journalists’ actions to be connected to the funding.