Legal officers have reportedly begun inquiries into property at the Russian headquarters of US government-funded outlet RFERL after judges handed down hefty fines to the company for violating national laws on foreign-backed media.
In a statement posted online, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) said that the bailiffs turned up at its Moscow newsroom on Friday to give notice that proceedings to enforce court decisions against the outlet had been initiated. The term for payment of fines worth five million rubles (USD$67,600) has reportedly expired.
According to the state-affiliated organization, which received directives and funding from the CIA until 1972, “the bailiffs spent about two hours in the bureau, inquiring about the inventory of equipment. They did not interfere with the work of the editorial board.”
RFERL has been appealing a series of court decisions that saw it handed more than 250 financial penalties for violating the terms of its ‘foreign agent’ designation under Russian law. Last month, spokeswoman for Moscow’s Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova told RT that the outlet had “knowingly violated” the requirement to publish its designation alongside its material, which she described as “more humane” than the US’ own rules on the Russian press.
On Thursday, a court struck down 140 of the original fines handed out to the news group, sending them back for reconsideration on a legal technicality. However, a further 117 fines, amounting to 28.8 million rubles ($390,000) remain in force. RFERL continues to deny wrongdoing and says it will appeal the case.
Russia’s foreign agent law requires organizations that receive the designation to display it prominently in their materials. According to the regulator, Roskomnadzor, the legislation “is intended to inform the Russian reader that the materials distributed by these media are pursuing the interests of other states.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously praised the law, arguing in March last year that it doesn’t prevent any outlet from doing their work, but “exists simply to protect Russia from external meddling in its politics.”
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