Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Russia's Bill Retaliating Against Foreign Media Passes Unanimously

Russia's Bill Retaliating Against Foreign Media Passes Unanimously

Foreign media operating in Russian Federation will be classified as "foreign agents" under new rules passed at second reading by the country's lower house of parliament Wednesday, local news agency RIA reported.

The bill was pushed through the legislature in less than a week as retaliation for the United States forcing the label upon Russian state-funded news outlet RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

The State Duma has passed an amendment, which allows the state to recognize foreign media receiving financing from overseas as "foreign agents" in third and final reading.

He emphasized that the new legislation relates only to foreign media outlets and doesn't refer to Russian media with foreign funding.

It now needs the approval of the upper house and President Vladimir Putin before becoming law.

Its passing follows RT registering with the US Justice Department following claims from US intelligence agencies that the television channel served as a Kremlin tool to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had described the U.S. demand of RT as an attack on freedom of speech and warned that Russia would retaliate. Many have been forced out of the mainstream Russian media space.

"We are making it possible.to take selective retaliatory measures - that is the idea of the law, and I hope it will be enforced this way".

After acquiring this status, these media outlets will be subject to the restrictions and responsibilities, which are now envisaged for non-governmental organizations labeled as foreign agents.

Under the 2012 law, foreign agents have to apply for inclusion in a government register, and submit regular reports on their sources of funding, their objectives, how they spend their money and who their managers are.

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

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".

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

"Ultimately a lot will depend on how exactly the law is implemented and to what extent it restricts foreign media's ability to act", he said.

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