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Russian investigative site The Insider branded ‘foreign agent’

July 23, 2021

Russia on Friday designated The Insider, an independent media outlet and key partner of investigative website Bellingcat, a “foreign agent”, in an intensifying crackdown on liberal media.

The Insider investigated with Bellingcat the near-fatal poisoning of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the attempted poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in British Salisbury in 2018.

On Friday, Russia’s justice ministry added The Insider to its list of media organisations “carrying out the functions of a foreign agent”.

Entities identified as foreign agents must disclose sources of funding and label publications with a tag or face fines.

The label is also a deterrent for advertisers and the stigma also makes it hard for journalists to carry out their work.

The Insider was founded in 2013 by 37-year-old journalist and activist Roman Dobrokhotov and specialises in fact-checking and investigative journalism.

It’s editorial office is based in Riga, the capital of EU member state Latvia.

According to The Insider’s website, donations are an important source of its funding.

In a statement, the group said it would continue publishing.

“We will contninue to inform our readers of socially important information in full and without censorship, in accordance with Latvian laws and common sense”.

The justice ministry’s decision Friday comes after several other independent news groups in Russia recently were outlawed or hit with the same label.

Last week investigative outlet Proekt was declared an “undesirable organisation” essentially banning its work in Russia under the threat of fines or jail time.

Several of its journalists, including chief editor Roman Badanin, were labelled “foreign agents”.

Five more journalists, including those who work for Proekt, were added to the foreign agent list on Friday.

Two other respected independent media outlets, VTimes and Meduza, have been branded foreign agents this year.

While the Latvia-based Meduza continues to operate after launching a crowdfunding campaign, VTimes said they would shut down to protect their staff from prosecution.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.