The media outlets said the crackdown was destroying independent journalism in the country. The dismissed the appeal as emotional and rejected the claim it was persecuting the media. As the September parliamentary elections approach, authorities have doubled down on their moves against independent media it sees as hostile towards the government’s agenda.
The Kremlin recently added TV Rain to its “foreign agent” blacklist, as well as several prominent journalists.
As a result, journalists wrote an open letter on Friday addressed to the Russian President that was signed by prominent outlets such as Forbes Russia, Novaya Gazeta and Meduza.
“We, journalists and editors of Russian and Russian-language media, demand an immediate end to the state campaign against the independent press,” it said.
The authors argued the “foreign agent” status “directly violates” the constitution, media laws and freedom of speech.
The Meduza news outlet accused the Kremlin on its website of carrying out “an orchestrated campaign” to destroy independent Russian media.
Media companies and journalists declared “foreign agents” must disclose sources of funding and label all their publications, including social media posts, with the tag or face fines.
The term has negative Soviet-era connotations and acts as a deterrent to potential advertisers, who provide much of the income that independent Russian media relies on to survive.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, brushed aside the complaints at a press conference.
He told journalists the designations clearly showed that the foreign agent law was functioning.
He added it was needed to protect Russia from meddling by foreign hostile forces and that journalists and NGOs can be easily manipulated.
The legislation behind the term “foreign agent” was originally passed in 2012 to cover NGOs.
It was expanded to include media companies in 2017 after the Kremlin-funded RT (formerly Russia Today) was declared a “foreign agent” in the United States.