Russian Federation drafts legislation targeting foreign media

Russian Federation drafts legislation targeting foreign media

Russia's State Duma has adopted in the third final reading an amendment that allows it to mark media outlets funded by foreign countries as foreign agents, with the Ministry of Justice set to make decision on the issue. They would then go pass quickly to the upper house and then to Putin for signing. 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.

Mr Putin has criticised the USA demand regarding RT as an attack on freedom of speech and warned that Russian Federation would retaliate.

The new bill is not going to affect the freedom of speech in the country, Petr Tolstoy said.

Following the registration, the news outlets would be subject to requirements that already apply to foreign-funded non-governmental organization under a 2012 law on foreign agents.

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

The Duma also approved in the second reading amendments to the mass-media law that would allow the extrajudicial blocking of websites that the Russian government deemed "undesirable". It requires them to publicly declare themselves as such and regularly provide detailed information about their funding, finances and staffing.

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"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russian Federation", said Denis Krivosheyev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at the London-based media watchdog. He said Russian Federation would retaliate.

The amendments to cover non-Russian media outlets are on a rapid course.

Once registered, they will face requirements now applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. He said there was no need to amend the mass-media law and any "symmetrical response" should be implemented by the executive branch. "The amendments on giving foreign-agent status are being adopted hastily and are badly thought out", he wrote.

Russian lawmakers began to draft the legislative measures after the US Department of Justice ordered RT America to register as a foreign agent before November 13, threatening to freeze the company's assets and arrest its head if it did not comply.

Amid allegations of Russian meddling in the United States 2016 election campaign, the U.S. authorities have increased pressure on Russian media. In particular, Twitter banned advertising from the accounts of Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, with Facebook later claiming that it found election-related posts allegedly used by Russia to influence the outcome of the presidential race.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on November 14 that "our relations are degrading day by day" and "have reached the lowest point in recent decades".

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