When is a foreign agent not a foreign agent?

The liberal media is reporting in pained tones today that Russia has designated an “independent” media publication VTimes as a ‘foreign agent’. Under this law the publication is allowed to continue operating but must display a message informing readers that it is a foreign agent. It must also submit its accounts for special scrutiny. The publication has decided to close. This is AFP in the Guardian. And this is the Independent. The AFP/Guardian story is especially agonised: “The editors’ [VTimes] statement comes at a difficult time for Russian journalists who do not work for state-run media, with space for independent journalism and dissenting voices shrinking dramatically.” – the “dissenting voices shrinking rapidly” is a little bit melodramatic. Another publication – based abroad – Medusa has also been told it must carry this label. But there remain many independent media (not mass broadcast admittedly) outlets such as Kommersant or Internet TV Station Dozhd in Russia. (Rain). In addition almost all of the Western liberal media (including the Guardian and Independent and BBC Russian service is accessible in Russia) as well as pure propaganda outlets such as US funded Radio Free Europe (which has been designated a foreign agent but which refuses to comply with Russian law) are accessible within Russia. So “dissenting voices shrinking dramatically” is not really accurate.

(In passing we can note that AFP is part-owned by the French government – does it see itself as “independent” whereas Russian state owned media is not?).

But what struck me about the stories in the Guardian and Independent about VTimes being designated a “foreign agent” is that neither of them felt it necessary to inform their readers that VTimes is… in fact, a foreign agent. It is supported by a Dutch organisation “Stichting 2 Oktober” [1] As is readily visible on its website Stichting 2 Oktober is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Notes

  1. themoscowtimes.com/2021/06/03/independent-russian-news-site-vtimes-shuts-down-following-foreign-agent-labeling-a74084

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer