Russian legislators approve bill targeting foreign media

Russian legislators approve bill targeting foreign media

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed in the third and final reading a law on designating media outlets as foreign agents if they receive funding from overseas.

Legislator Leonid Levin said the bill will provide a tool for the Justice Ministry to designate worldwide media outlets as foreign agents.

The Kremlin praised the move as allowing it to offer a "very harsh" response to attacks on Russian media overseas.

In comments to The Washington Post outside of the Duma hall, Pyotr Tolstoy, a former journalist and talk show host turned lawmaker who led the drafting of the legislation, said he expected the law to target a small number of news agencies at first, but could possibly grow if Russian Federation believes more of its news agencies are being pressured overseas.

The law could be used against US media such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which receive funding from the US Congress. Moscow vowed to act swiftly in response to what it claims is a clampdown on Russian media in the U.S.

"A hybrid war has been declared against us and we are obliged to respond", Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said in parliament.

The lower house of parliament's deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said in parliament the reciprocal measures were "forced" by the actions of the United States.

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The law could require designated media outlets to disclose where they get their funding and how they spend it, though the bill does not specify on what basis foreign media would be compelled to register.

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. The ministry is also tasked with developing instructions regarding the obligatory marking of products released by mass-media outlets registered as foreign agents, and deciding whether it is necessary to maintain a separate register of such organizations.

Previously, the US Justice Department ordered Russia's foreign broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today, and the Sputnik news agency to register as agents of a foreign government.

According to the draft law, a media organisation classified as a "foreign agent" will be subject to the same requirements that are applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law.

Amnesty International criticised the new bill as an attack on media freedom.

The Moscow-based broadcaster has become a focus of the investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 USA presidential election.

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