Russian Lawmakers Approve Bill Targeting Foreign Media

Russia's State Duma                  Reuters

Russian law adopted in November 2012 requires that all NGOs engaged in political activity and receiving foreign funding register as "foreign agents".

Russian MPs on Wednesday backed new legislation allowing foreign media outlets to be listed as "foreign agents" in a reciprocal response to USA pressure on Kremlin-backed TV channel RT.

Once registered, they will face requirements now applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations.

United States intelligence agencies allege that RT served as a Kremlin tool to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. Russian President Vladimir Putin called this situation an attack on freedom of speech and members of the State Duma initiated preparation of symmetrical response measures. The law designating media outlets as foreign agents, passed by the State Duma on Wednesday, will allow Russia's authorities to immediately and symmetrically respond to the encroachment on the freedom of Russian media overseas, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The legislation is widely expected to pass a third reading in the Duma, before moving to the upper house for approval.

RT capitulated to a second USA deadline on Monday to comply with an anti-Nazi propaganda law that requires the broadcaster to disclose its financing and label itself as a foreign agent.

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After acquiring this status, these media outlets will be subject to the restrictions and responsibilities, which are now envisaged for non-governmental organizations labeled as foreign agents.

Outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which receive funding from the US Congress, would be forced to register as foreign agents.

Critics of the law have said the definition of political activity is so loose that it could be used against nearly any non-governmental organisation.

Amnesty International said the bill was an attack on media freedom.

"Over the last couple of years, the Kremlin has been tirelessly building a media echo chamber that shuts out critical voices, both inside Russian Federation and from overseas".

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