Washington, D.C. — U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Acting CEO Kelu Chao met today with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and discussed the vital role that USAGM networks and other independent media play in supporting a free press as a cornerstone of democracy around the world.
During the meeting, Secretary Blinken expressed his strong support for USAGM’s global networks, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), the Voice of America (VOA), the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), as well as for the Open Technology Fund (OTF), which offers unfettered, secure access to USAGM content and develops tools and technology to bolster internet freedom.
The two also discussed the Kremlin’s efforts to restrict media freedom and its recently imposed invasive labeling requirements.
“The Secretary agreed that the Russian government’s efforts to silence independent journalism only harm the citizens it is meant to serve,” Acting CEO Chao said.
Russia’s revised “foreign agent” law requires designated news organizations in Russia that receive foreign funding to prominently label all content, including social media, as foreign agent-produced. The first organizations so designated by the Russian Ministry of Justice were the USAGM-funded public service media outlets RFE/RL and VOA.
The Russian law, originally passed in 2012 and amended in 2020 to include individual journalists, also levies fines on these outlets. Given that USAGM’s legislatively mandated firewall prohibits its networks from accepting editorial direction from the U.S. government, RFE/RL and VOA refuse to label their content in such a wholly inaccurate manner.
In filing more almost 400 violations of “foreign agent” regulations, the Kremlin has specifically targeted nine of RFE/RL’s reporting projects: Radio Liberty, its main service for Russia; the Current Time 24/7 television and digital network serving a global Russian-speaking audience; the regional reporting projects North.Realities, Siberia.Realities, Caucasus.Realities, Idel.Realities, and Crimea.Realities; the Tatar-Bashkir Service; and the fact-checking website Factograph.info. Additionally, in late December, the Kremlin named three RFE/RL freelance reporters as individual “foreign agent” journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said Russia should repeal the foreign agent law and “ensure that the country’s regulator is not used to censure journalists and harass and threaten media organizations.” Amnesty International said Russia’s foreign agent law “further erodes freedom of expression and association” in that country.
Update (04/07/21) CORRECTION: This release is being reissued to correct the omission of the Open Technology Fund from the list of USAGM entities.
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