Russian parliament approves 1st reading of bill to curb "foreign agent" media

Anton Novoderezhkin  TASS

Anton Novoderezhkin TASS

Russian lawmakers have passed in a first reading a law to name individuals, including bloggers, "foreign agents" after applying the label to several foreign media previous year. If a media outlet is designated as a foreign agent, it must set up a Russian legal entity, acting as a foreign agent, in order to disseminate printed information, audio and video reports, according to the bill.

An extension of the measure would allow authorities to also label individuals who distribute information as "foreign agents" if they receive any funding from a foreign government.

To become a law, the bill has to be passed by the Duma in two more readings, then be endorsed by the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and signed by President Vladimir Putin before being published officially.

The law was enacted after Russia's state-owned English news channel RT America was forced to register as a foreign agent in the United States by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Yesterday, Tolstoy said that social network users, including those of Facebook, would be obliged to mark their posts with a disclosure that the text is reposted from a foreign agent media outlet.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a briefing Friday that Moscow considered the move as a "demonstration of outright discrimination against our media outlets and an attack on freedom of speech".

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