Russian Federation moves to label foreign media as 'foreign agents'

Russia's State Duma                  Reuters

Russia's State Duma Reuters

Russia's lower house of parliament gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a law giving Moscow the power to designate foreign media operating in Russian Federation as "foreign agents" required to disclose where they get their funding and how they spend it.

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

The screen shows the results of vote on the amendments to the Russia's Law on Media in the 3rd (final) reading during a plenary session of the Russian State Duma on November 15. Moscow vowed to act swiftly in response to what it claims is a clampdown on Russian media in the U.S.

US-backed Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty could be hit.

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

"This decision that we're taking is a forced one, none of us wanted to take such a decision, and it will not influence freedom of speech in our country at all", said Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament, according to RIA news agency.

The bill was sent to Russia's upper house of parliament to be rubber-stamped before being submitted to President Vladimir Putin for final approval.

Top Polish politicos'dream of demolishing Stalinist palace
Top Polish politicos'dream of demolishing Stalinist palace

Russian lawmakers on Wednesday amended two laws that could require foreign news outlets to disclose status, report their activities and be subjected to financial inspections. It has vowed to retaliate by imposing restrictions on some foreign media operating in Russian Federation.

"We are making it possible.to take selective retaliatory measures - that is the idea of the law, and I hope it will be enforced this way".

The text of the amendment defines affected mass-media outlets as legal entities that are "registered in a foreign nation, or a foreign structure that operates without registering as a company, engaged in spreading printed, audio, audio-visual or any other content prepared for an unlimited group of people". They will also face a similar responsibility for such NGOs for breaching this legislation.

Amnesty International has warned the law will allow the Russian authorities "to tighten their stranglehold on press freedom".

The move comes in response to a U.S. Justice Department requirement that RT register as a foreign agent due to its alleged role in interfering in U.S. affairs and the 2016 presidential elections by pushing the Kremlin's agenda.

The legislation is part of the fallout from a row between Moscow and Washington over allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the USA presidential election past year in favour of Donald Trump.

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