Russian MPs back law targeting foreign media: agencies

15 November, 2017, 14:23 | Author: Valerie Burke
  • The office of Russian state-owned television station RT in Moscow

During Wednesday's debates, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin described the new legislation as a "symmetrical answer" to the USA and a signal that "our media can't be treated like that".

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. Russian President Vladimir Putin called this situation an attack on freedom of speech and members of the State Duma initiated preparation of symmetrical response measures.

RT said on Monday it had registered as a foreign agent in the U.S. following a request by the Department of Justice.

The U.S. intelligence agencies allege that RT served as a tool for the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Under the new law, foreign media organizations identified by Russian Justice Ministry would be forced to register as foreign agents, then provide financial accounts and label their reports as having been produced by foreign agents.

Russian Federation denies it meddled in the 2016 election, and RT has accused the Justice Department of impinging on free speech.

The bill will pass to the upper house which is expected to quickly rubber-stamp it next week before it goes to Mr Putin.

"Any encroachment on the freedom of Russian media overseas is not and won't be left without a strong condemnation and a tit-for-tat response of Moscow", Peskov said, adding that the law will enable Russia to give a timely response.

"I would like to hope that it will only be used once and there will be no need for more retaliatory action", he added.

According to the draft legislation, media outlets designated as foreign agents would be subject to the same rules that now apply to foreign-funded non-governmental organizations.

A Russian law adopted in 2012 forces NGOs that have worldwide funding and whose activities are deemed "political" to undergo intensive scrutiny of their finances and staffing and label themselves as "foreign agents" on paperwork and statements.

These media will have to declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing while all published materials, including on their websites and social media, must be marked as coming from a "foreign agent".

Amnesty International said the bill was an attack on media freedom.

"We view this new media law with concern and surprise", Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin.



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