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'Foreign Agent' law challenged at ECHR

US funded broadcaster files complaint with the European Court of Human Rights

The Moscow Bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has filed a urgent complaint with the ECHR challenging Russia’s controversial 'foreign agent' law following the ECHR’s refusal to grant interim relief.

First passed in 2012, this law, requires broadcasters and non-governmental organisations that receive foreign funding to append a disclaimer to every news article, social media post and piece of audio-visual content specifying that the content has been created and distributed by an outlet 'performing the function of a 'foreign agent'.

RFE/RL reject the 'foreign agent' designation and have repeatedly refused to implement the onerous labelling requirements, imposed by Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor which has resulted in millions of dollars of fines being imposed against the company in recent months.

In its complaint filed with the ECHR this week, RFE/RL argue that the 'foreign agent' designation and punishing fines imposed, violate the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of press protected by Article 10 under the European Convention on Human Rights. RFE/RL have called for the case to be given priority status as just days before filing this complaint, Russian authorities initiated enforcement proceedings and froze RFE/RL’s Moscow bank accounts.

Whilst this piece of legislation has been condemned by European Parliament and other international bodies for infringing fundamental freedoms, ultimately Russia’s national legislation takes precedence over international treaties and rulings from international bodies. A decision in favour of RFE/RL would therefore be extremely significant, but the likelihood of this remains to be seen.

Editorial prepared by: Katie Major, Solicitor, Mills Selig

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