Five members of the U.S. House of Representatives Friday urged President Joe Biden’s administration to confront what they said is a growing threat from Russia against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
“We urge the Biden administration to engage the Russian government immediately” on the matter, the five – Democratic Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, senior committee Republican Michael McCaul, Democrat Marcy Kaptur, Republican Adam Kinzinger, and Democrat William Keating — wrote in a letter to Biden.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a U.S.-funded news organization, is facing multimillion-dollar fines and possible criminal charges against its employees after Russia accused it of violating the country’s foreign agents law. New amendments to the law require media organizations that receive foreign funding to label all their content as being produced by a “foreign agent.”
The House members noted that RFE/RL journalists have refused to label their content as such “for fear it will discredit their work.”
They urged the Biden administration to immediately make clear to the Russian government that “these restrictions on RFE/RL, its affiliates and its staff are unacceptable and, in particular, that exposing RFE/RL’s staff to criminal liability will be met with serious consequences.”
The lawmakers also called for the Biden administration to consider sanctions against Russian officials as well as to demand greater reciprocity between the conditions that “Western outlets like RFE/RL face inside Russia and those faced by Russian state-run outlets, such as Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, here in the United States.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent organization of the Voice of America.
Critics say the new Russian laws targeting foreign agents have been arbitrarily applied to target Russian civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and political activists.
The Europe and Central Asia program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Gulnoza Said, said in a statement last week that the Russian law is being used to “censure journalists and harass and threaten media organizations.”
Amnesty International said the law would “drastically limit and damage the work not only of civil society organizations that receive funds from outside Russia but many other groups as well.”