Russian Parliament passes law to introduce foreign agent status for media outlets

Russian Parliament passes law to introduce foreign agent status for media outlets

State Duma passes amendment on media classified as “foreign agents”

The law, which is focused on media, is considerably broader than the US legislation, which only targets state-funded organizations.

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.

Russian MPs on Wednesday backed new legislation that could force foreign media outlets to register as "foreign agents" in a reciprocal response to USA pressure on Kremlin-backed TV channel RT. He added that the government will "use the opportunities offered by the bill for a timely quid pro quo response". As many as 409 out of 450 MPs voted to adopt the amendments.

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

Pyotr Tolstoy, a deputy speaker of the Duma who authored the bill, said he expects the Justice Ministry to take "pinpoint retaliatory measures".

The report said that RT "conducts strategic messaging for [the] Russian government" and "seeks to influence politics, [and] fuel discontent in the U.S".

The wording of the law is very broad, potentially allowing its use against any foreign media organisation operating in Russian Federation.

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The bill will go to the upper house and then to President Vladimir Putin for signing.

The broadly phrased bill will leave it to the Russian government to determine which foreign media outlets would be designated as foreign agents, said Leonid Levin, the head of the Duma committee for information.

"Sadly, this is now likely to become the fate of the very few news outlets in Russian Federation who have fought hard to preserve their independence by securing foreign funding for their work".

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.

Under the amendments to the law, which were adopted this year, political activity is linked to such fields as state-building, securing Russia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, enforcement of law, order and security, national defense, foreign policy, political system integrity, social and economic and national development of the country, regulation of rights and freedoms of man and citizen.

Amnesty International has warned the law will allow the Russian authorities "to tighten their stranglehold on press freedom". Besides, they will face the same responsibility for law violations.

Washington considers RT a propaganda arm of the Kremlin and told it to register its American operation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act aimed at lobbyists and lawyers representing foreign political interests.

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