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Newspeak How Russia blurs reality with the help of the newspeak: “foreign agents”

In Russia, a “foreign agent” is a person who is considered to receive funding from abroad and participate in the political activities of the country, disseminate information as media on the territory of the Russian Federation, or collect military-technical information. The Putin regime has carried out systematic repression in Russia in recent years, for example by censoring the media or banning rallies. After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the persecution of dissent in Russia intensified even more, and citizens disliked by the authorities increasingly began to be included in the so-called register of “foreign agents”. That is, this term is used to attack the opposition, in particular.

Russia's “foreign agents” law, passed back in 2012, requires any non-profit organization allegedly receiving financial support from outside Russia or being “influenced” by other countries to register and declare itself a “foreign agent”. Russian legislation does not specify what exactly should be considered foreign influence. The law has been heavily criticized both in Russia and internationally as a violation of human rights and as a tool used to suppress civil society - especially groups opposed to Putin. We are also talking about pressure on press freedom in the Russian Federation, because projects, for example, Radio Svoboda (Liberty), Voice of America, etc., are included in the register.

Today, a similar law “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence” is being tried to be adopted in the Georgian parliament. Georgian deputies even voted for it in the second reading. Before final adoption, the bill still has to pass the third final reading, as well as overcome the veto of the country's president. However, back on March 7, 2023, mass peaceful protests began in Georgia, which continue today, due to parliamentary support for the law on “foreign agents” initiated by the Georgian “Power of the People” party. The protesters call it an analogue of the Russian law on “foreign agents” and believe that it will remove Georgia from joining the EU.

Previously, only organizations were included in the Russian register of “foreign agents”, but from the end of 2020, individuals allegedly under foreign influence began to be included there — it is no longer necessary to establish the fact of financing from abroad. As of April 2023, there were more than 260 people on the register of “foreign agents”. Almost half of the “foreign agents”, according to the Russian authorities, are journalists: there were 119 of them in the register. For example, already in April 2024, the Russian journalist Ivan Filippov, who runs a telegram channel with an audience of 61.5 thousand subscribers, was added to the register of “foreign agents”. In particular, it contains critical reviews of publications by Russian pro-war telegram channels. Another large group in the register is political and public figures: 79 people.

Also, 18 human rights activists, lawyers and jurists acquired the status of “foreign agent” in Russia; 14 representatives of show business; 13 political scientists, historians, sociologists and philosophers; 11 publicists and publishers; 5 artists, directors and film distributors; 5 businessmen and economists; 2 athletes and even one physicist.

So, today the Russian authorities allow themselves to persecute not only organizations, but also citizens they dislike, working in the field of education, culture, healthcare, ecology, human rights protection, etc., labeling them as “foreign agents”. This term is intended to discredit these individuals and their views or activities to the public.

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