Moscow's foreign agent law bites back at USA crackdown on Russian media

Pauline Gross
November 16, 2017

Russia's parliament has passed legislation to declare global media "foreign agents" in response to USA scrutiny of the Kremlin's RT channel.

Russia's broadside against USA media is part of the fallout from allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the US presidential election previous year in favour of Donald Trump. They would be subject to additional requirements and failure to meet them could result in the suspension of their activities.

In September, the US Department of Justice asked a contractor of RT in the United States to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

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

Russian Federation denies it meddled in last year's election campaign, and RT has accused the Justice Department of infringing on free speech.

Decisions regarding registration of media as "foreign agents" are to be made by the Ministry of Justice. He said the rule would be likely to curtail the Russian-language services of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Washington-funded outlets Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

The new bill expands the scope of the 2013 so-called foreign agents law which primarily targeted NGOs, forcing several of the most reputable to close and many more to curtail their work. It requires them to publicly declare themselves as such and regularly provide detailed information about their funding, finances and staffing.

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"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".

Just like the 2012 law, the new bill is loose enough to target anyone.

"The Kremlin has been tirelessly building a media echo chamber that shuts out critical voices", Mr. Krivosheev said, "both inside Russian Federation and from overseas". "This latest legislation takes obstacles for media working in Russian Federation to a whole new level".

If the upper chamber and Putin also back the draft, it will become law, but implementation of its provisions would be left to the discretion of the Russian government.

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

Putin has been fiercely critical of USA measures towards Russian media, but he has not given wholehearted support to the draft legislation, saying at the weekend it "might be a little too harsh".

Other reports by GizPress

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