Russian Nobel winner Muratov loses challenge against 'foreign agent' status

Russian rights activist Orlov in court for discrediting army

(Reuters) - Russian editor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov failed on Tuesday in a legal bid to overturn his designation by the authorities as a "foreign agent".

Russia has applied the label extensively to journalists, human rights activists, opposition figures and organisations it accuses of accepting foreign support in order to engage in what it deems unacceptable political activity.

The Novaya Gazeta newspaper said on its Telegram channel that a judge took only five minutes to throw out Muratov's case.

Muratov told reporters the reason for his designation was that he had spoken to YouTube channels considered to be foreign agents, although he said he had done nothing illegal.

"In my view they have banned the profession of journalist in the Russian Federation," he said.

Along with other leading independent news outlets, Muratov's paper was forced to halt publication in Russia after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022 and parliament passed tough new laws against "discrediting" the armed forces or spreading false information about them.

The term "foreign agent" carries Cold War connotations of spying. Anyone listed as such must declare their status whenever they publish anything, including on social media, and submit to onerous bureaucracy and scrutiny of their finances. Many have fled the country.

The Baza news outlet reported on Tuesday that a federal anti-corruption official had written to parliament asking deputies to change the law so that foreign agents could be denied entrance to Russia on security grounds.

(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Gareth Jones)