Russian lawmakers approve bill targeting foreign media

Russian lawmakers approve bill targeting foreign media

Russian lawmakers approve bill targeting foreign media

Russian MPs on Wednesday backed new legislation that could force foreign media outlets to register as "foreign agents" in a reciprocal response to United States pressure on Kremlin-backed TV channel RT.

This measure was a response to the demand of the US Department of Justice to RT America, a US branch of the Russian television company, to register as a foreign agent.

Russian Federation has moved closer to introducing a law that will allow the government to list any foreign media operating in the country as a foreign agent.

The amendments now need to be passed by the Senate and then be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, after which they will enter force immediately.

US intelligence agencies allege that RT served as a Kremlin tool to meddle in the 2016 USA presidential election. President Vladimir Putin accused the USA of instigating them.

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Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the legislation will provide the necessary framework for the government to retaliate to any foreign action against the Russian media.

"We are making it take selective retaliatory measures - that is the idea of the law, and I hope it will be enforced this way". Head of RT Margarita Simonyan said that it was a forced choice between registration and a criminal case.

Afterwards, a media outlet holding the status of a foreign agent will be subject to restrictions and commitments provided for non-profit organisations (foreign agents).

The move is likely to effect the Russian services of major global media outlets such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

The instruction came under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), adopted in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation on USA soil and applied to those engaged in political activity for a foreign government.

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These media will have to declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing while all published materials, including on their websites and social media, must be marked as coming from a "foreign agent".

"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russia", Denis Krivosheev, the group's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.

The German government also strongly criticized the legislation.

"Ultimately a lot will depend on how exactly the law is implemented and to what extent it restricts foreign media's ability to act", he said.

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