Sunday, 17 December, 2017

Russian Federation moves to target foreign media in RT registration row

Russian Lawmakers Approve Bill Targeting Foreign Media AP Pavel Golovkin File
Sammy Stanley | 15 November, 2017, 14:24

On Wednesday, the State Duma passed the second reading of the foreign agent media amendments, with 409 out of 450 Duma members voting in their favor.

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.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had described the United States demand of RT as an attack on freedom of speech and warned that Russia would retaliate.

State Duma's decision came in response to the recent requirement from the US Department of Justice to register RT America TV channel, the American branch of the Russian television company, as a foreign agent.

US investigators are reportedly looking into whether Russian government-funded outlets such as RT and Sputnik were part of Russia's influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election.

Russian Federation has denied it interfered in last year's U.S. presidential election.

On Wednesday, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was premature to discuss the perceived "harshness" of the law.

The Russian proposal would affect foreign-registered media outlets which receive funding from outside Russia.

Quiz How Well Do You Remember the 2014 Winter Games
Quiz How Well Do You Remember the 2014 Winter Games

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

The lower house of parliament's deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy told the chamber reciprocal measures were "forced" by the actions of the United States, which he earlier said was spitting in Russia's face. After a foreign media outlet is declared a foreign agent, it will become subject to restrictions now imposed on non-profit organization declared foreign agents.

The instruction came under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), adopted in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation on USA soil and applied to those engaged in political activity for a foreign government.

Critics of the law have said the definition of political activity is so loose that it could be used against nearly any non-governmental organisation.

The move is likely to effect the Russian services of major global media outlets such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russia", Denis Krivosheev, the group's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.

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

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