Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Russian legislators approve bill targeting foreign media

Russian legislators approve bill targeting foreign media

"Any attempts to encroach on the freedom of Russian media overseas. will not remain without response from Moscow - without a very harsh response", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Russia's lower house of parliament has unanimously approved a bill allowing the government to register worldwide media outlets as foreign agents, days after the U.S. demanded the same of the Russian state-funded RT television channel.

US-backed Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty could be hit.

"The Russian authorities have previously used the "foreign agents law" to shackle and stigmatize dozens of the country's most highly regarded NGOs", said Denis Krivosheev.

Members of parliament have given contradictory statements on whether the law could apply to commercial TV network CNN.

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

The bill passed its second reading - also unanimously - earlier in the day.

The third reading is seen as a formality, after which the amendments will have to be passed by the Senate and then be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

The amendments under consideration in Russia were proposed by lawmakers in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature.

Tolstoy told parliament the amendments would not be automatically enforced, but would be selectively applied by the justice ministry.

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.

Non-compliant foreign organizations could be blocked without a court order in Russian Federation.

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

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the legislation will provide the necessary framework for the government to retaliate to any foreign action against the Russian media.

Amnesty International harshly criticized the new bill as an attack on media freedom.

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

USA intelligence agencies have alleged that RT served as a tool for the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.

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