The Moscow office of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is seen on April 6, 2021. A Moscow court recently declared the outlet to be bankrupt. (Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina)

RFE/RL Russian branch declared bankrupt by Moscow court

Paris, March 13, 2023 – In response to news reports that a Russian court declared Monday that the local branch of the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was bankrupt, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:

“The bankruptcy of RFE/RL in Russia demonstrates how the country’s legislation on so-called ‘foreign agents’ has been used to economically strangle a media outlet,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “Russian authorities should stop obstructing the work of RFE/RL, repeal the draconian foreign agent law, and let the media work freely.”

On Monday, March 13, a court in Moscow declared RFE/RL’s local legal entity bankrupt following its alleged inability to pay fines totaling more than 1 billion rubles (US$13.3 million) issued over its refusal to comply with the requirements of the country’s foreign agent law, according to those reports, both published by RFE/RL affiliates.

The bankruptcy proceedings were initiated in 2022 by Russian tax authorities; RFE/RL said at the time that the proceedings were “the culmination of a years-long pressure campaign” against the broadcaster. Authorities previously froze RFE/RL’s bank accounts in May 2021.

Russian authorities have also labeled more than 30 RFE/RL journalists as foreign agents, and a number of the broadcaster’s affiliated websites were blocked after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

CPJ emailed the Moscow Arbitration Court for comment, but did not receive any reply.