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Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) meets Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP via Getty

Among the topics that Secretary of State Tony Blinken raised with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in their first meeting on Wednesday was the crackdown on the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Why it matters: RFE/RL, which is editorially independent, has the largest audience in Russia of any international media organization across its several platforms, according to the U.S. Agency for Global Media. But its continued operations in Russia are in doubt.

To comply with restrictions imposed last fall, RFE/RL would have had to place warnings on every piece of content it produces — 15-second trailers before videos, for example — identifying itself as a foreign agent.

  • That's a more onerous version of the labeling required in the U.S. for Russia's RT and Sputnik propaganda outlets.

Believing it would not be able to effectively reach its audience under those conditions, "we decided to defy the law and to not label, which is how we ended up in this situation today," RFE/RL president Jamie Fly tells Axios.

  • "We now have roughly $2.3 million in fines assessed against us for content that was not labeled, and last Friday we had bailiffs visiting our bureau and our bank accounts being frozen several hours later," Fly says.
  • RFE/RL has appealed in the Russian courts and at the European Court of Human Rights, but "we understand that we may be in a situation where we are not able to convince the Russian authorities to change course," Fly says.
  • Under the law, Russian authorities could raid the Moscow bureau and seize equipment, or even could pursue criminal charges against RFE/RL's corporate officers.

The bottom line: If enforced, the law "would diminish the firsthand reporting that's possible from inside Russia, which is disturbing not only to us ... but comes at a time when there are many other Russian independent media outlets under attack," Fly says.

  • He added that even if the Moscow bureau is forced to shut down, RFE/RL will use its large network of contributors to continue to produce journalism in Russia.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
37 mins ago - Economy & Business

IPO market holds firm amid stock market tumult

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The IPO market is doing its best Alfred E. Neuman impression so far this week, refusing to entertain everyone else's worries.

The big picture: Both the Dow and S&P 500 fell nearly 2% yesterday, as investors tried to measure the fallout of Chinese construction giant Evergrande defaulting on its $300 billion in liabilities.

2 hours ago - World

Sudanese government says it put down coup attempt

Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok (L) and Sovereign Council Chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty

The Sudanese government announced on Tuesday morning that its military and security services had foiled an attempted coup from within the country’s armed forces.

Why it matters: The apparent coup attempt comes with Sudan’s transitional government — in which power is shared between civilians and generals — facing crises on several fronts two years after dictator Omar al-Bashir was toppled in a popular uprising.

3 hours ago - Health

Johnson & Johnson says booster shot increases efficacy of COVID vaccine

Syringes and a vial of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in French Polynesia on Sept. 8. Photo: Jerome Brouillet/AFP via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson said in a press release Tuesday a global study showed that the protection offered by its coronavirus vaccine was strengthened by a booster shot.

Why it matters: While J&J has not formally applied for authorization to offer booster shots to the general public, it said it has shared the results of the study with the Food and Drug Administration and plans to share it with the World Health Organization and other health regulators.