Russia classifies Radio Free Europe as an 'undesirable organisation'

In this Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 file photo, the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is seen with the United States flag in the foreground, in Prague.
In this Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 file photo, the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is seen with the United States flag in the foreground, in Prague. Copyright AP
By Tamsin Paternoster
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The Kremlin's move opens up the possibility of criminal charges against longtime broadcaster.

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Russia has labelled US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) an "undesirable organisation", according to a registry held by the country's Justice Ministry. 

Previously, RTL/RL was identified as  a "foreign agent". The ruling to add it to the list as "undesirable" was made on February 20th, with RFE/RL being the 142nd entity labelled this way. 

The "undesirable organisation" law was adopted in 2015 by the Kremlin and regulates NGOs and other organisations that receive funding from foreign sources. It acts to effectively ban the organisation and has been applied to other media organisations such as investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat and Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. It also opens the organisation up to criminal charges.  

Lawyer Maksim Olenichev commented to Euronews that users can be targeted for simply sharing RFE/RL links on social media. 

In a statement RFE/RL President Stephen Capus said the categorisation is an "attempt to stifle us". He noted that it "will only make RFE/RL work harder to bring free and independent journalism to the Russian people.”

RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was detained by Russian authorities while visiting her mother in Russia. She faces up to 15 years in prison for failing to register with the Russian authorities as a "foreign agent."

RFE/RL is a United States government funded media organisation that broadcasts and reports news to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East. It is the sister organisation to American outlet Voice of America (VOA).

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