Russia classifies investigative journalism group Bellingcat as a foreign agent
The Russian Ministry of Justice has designated the critical investigative journalist collective Bellingcat as a foreign agent. Nine journalists, including one of whom worked for BBC Russia, were given the same label.
“Russia considers Bellingcat such a threat that we have been declared a foreign agent,” Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins wrote on Twitter. Bellingcat moved its headquarters from the United Kingdom to Amsterdam three years ago. Higgins wondered how it could be that an NGO without any Russian workers or offices can be declared a foreign agent there.
His journalistic collective has published pieces in which is Russia is associated with, among other topics, the downing of flight MH17 killing all 298 passengers and the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalni and former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. Bellingcat also covered the Syrian civil war and the war in Eastern Ukraine.
Organizations that are designated as foreign agents in Russia are under increased scrutiny by the authorities and must state in their publications that they are labeled as such. The name is used for what Russian authorities believe to be organizations financed by foreign countries and engaged in political activities against the Russian authorities.
In 2019, Bellingcat won the Dutch public communication prize, Machiavelli for their innovative method of investigative journalism.
However, unlike the majority of other "foreign agents", Bellingcat has neither a legal nor physical presence in Russia. We are a foundation registered in the Netherlands without staff in Russia.— Bellingcat (@bellingcat) October 8, 2021
Reporting by ANP and NL Times