The Russian justice ministry announced on Friday that it considers online news platform VTimes as a “foreign agent”, subjecting the media outlet to increased scrutiny of government authorities.
The label that the Russian government made would place the independent news organization in jeopardy that could affect the advertising engagements of the online media platform in the future.
According to critics of the Russian government, this move signifies the ongoing crackdown of the Kremlin on freedom of speech and media independence in the country.
VTimes was launched in October 2020 by a group of senior editors and journalists that came from the Vedomosti business daily.
The group left the prominent Russian business newspaper after the appointment of a new editor-in-chief sparked issues of introducing pro-Kremlin censorship.
Pioneers of the VTimes then vowed that they would continue practicing the tradition of Vedomosti – an independent and objective practice of journalism.
“On May 14, 2021, the Stichting 2 Oktober legal entity registered in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is the administrator of the VTimes.io internet resource, was included in the registry of foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent,” the justice ministry said in a statement on Friday.
This label would create negative Soviet-era connotations for VTimes and would require the independent online news media to publish 24-word disclaimers saying their publications are distributed by a media outlet “fulfilling the function of a foreign agent.”