Russian TV Station Previously Barred from Covering Vladimir Putin Labeled a 'Foreign Agent'

A Russian TV station that was previously barred from covering Russian President Vladimir Putin was labeled a "foreign agent" by authorities, putting pressure on critical media ahead of the parliamentary election, the Associated Press reported.

The top independent TV channel, Dozhd TV, and the Vazhyne Istorii investigative outlet were both deemed "foreign agents," along with seven of its journalists. The label will invite more government scrutiny and could lead to loss of viewers.

Dozhd covered the story of the poisoning and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as well as the criminal cases conducted against his allies. The channel was critical of Russian authorities' crackdown on defiance and often reported on opposition protests.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Dozhd TV Deemed 'Foreign Agent' by Authorities.
Russian authorities have deemed top independent Russian TV station Dozhd TV a "foreign agent." Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after their bilateral meeting at the Grand Kremlin Palace on August 20, 2021, in Moscow. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Earlier this year, the Kremlin purged Dozhd from the pool of journalists covering Putin, citing what it described as its flawed coverage of opposition protests.

Navalny, Putin's most outspoken political foe, fell ill on a domestic flight over Siberia on August 20, 2020 and was flown for treatment to Germany, where officials determined that he was poisoned with a Soviet-designed nerve agent. He blamed the attack on the Kremlin, an accusation that Russian authorities reject.

Navalny was arrested in January upon returning to Moscow from Germany and handed a 2 1/2-year prison sentence in February for violating the terms of a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he dismissed as politically motivated.

In the following months, authorities unleashed a sweeping crackdown on Navalny's groups and associates. In June, a court outlawed Navalny's Foundation for Fighting Corruption and a network of his regional offices as extremist organizations. The verdict carried long prison terms for those associated with it and was widely seen as part of efforts to bar Kremlin critics from running in the September 19 parliamentary election.

The Justice Ministry acted under a law that is used to designate as "foreign agents" non-governmental organizations and individuals who receive funding from abroad and engage in activities loosely described as political.

Russian authorities have previously applied the designation to several independent media outlets, including Meduza and VTimes. VTimes shut down after that, while Meduza launched a crowd-funding campaign.

Another law has been used to outlaw groups deemed "undesirable" and makes membership in them a criminal offense. It has been used to ban scores of opposition groups, foreign NGOs and critical media outlets.

Russian authorities have raised the heat on the opposition and independent media ahead of the September election, which is widely seen as important to Putin's ability to cement his rule in the runup to the country's 2024 presidential election.

Dozhd TV Deemed 'Foreign Agent' by Authorities.
Dozhd TV, which was previously barred from covering any story on Russian President Vladimir Putin, has now been labeled a "foreign agent." Above Dozhd TV editor Mikhail Zygar during an interview with AFP in Moscow on December 14, 2011. Alexander Nemenov/Getty Images