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OSCE Condemns Russian Ruling Against RFE/RL For Violating 'Foreign-Agents' Law

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has denounced a Russian court ruling that found Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty had violated a controversial "foreign-agents" law.

The July 6 statement by the media freedoms office of the Vienna-based OSCE came one day after a Moscow district court issued its ruling and fined RFE/RL 100,000 rubles ($1,600).

The court said RFE/RL failed to comply with a law regulating media outlets branded by the government as "foreign agents."

“The court’s decision clearly shows that the 'foreign-agents' law unduly hinders the work of media outlets and narrows the space for freedom of the media in the Russian Federation,” Harlem Désir, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, said in a statement.

The July 5 ruling came eight months after the Justice Ministry slapped the “foreign-agent” label on RFE/RL, Voice of America, and several affiliated news services.

The designation was based on a law signed by President Vladimir Putin in November allowing the government to apply the label to media outlets who receive funding from abroad. The law drew sharp criticism from Western governments and rights activists.

Lawyers for RFE/RL have defended the legally mandated filings made by the company, saying there was a lack of clarity as to when the reports were due.