Russia could target any foreign media under new law: MP

Russia would be able to list any foreign media outlet as a “foreign agent” under new measures expected to be approved Wednesday, a lawmaker said, as Moscow responds to US pressure on the Kremlin-backed RT channel.

The move comes as Washington fights what it calls a barrage of “fake news” from Russian media and online outlets aimed at interfering in US domestic politics.

Parliament is set to approve a set of amendments to an existing media bill Wednesday, meaning they could go into force as early as next week, deputy speaker of Russia´s lower house of parliament Pyotr Tolstoy told Rossiya 24 channel.

“(The law) gives the relevant government institution the opportunity to classify media outlets that receive money from abroad as foreign agents,” he said, when asked which outlets are likely to be put on the list first.

Most likely the list will be maintained by the ministry of justice, which already keeps a similar database of non-governmental organisations which have been designated as “foreign agents”.

The bill is a tit-for-tat response to Washington´s move to register T&R Productions LLC, a corporation which operates US studios of state channel RT, as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Asked to clarify exactly who could be listed as a “foreign agent” in Russia, Tolstoy said “these are media outlets that receive money from foreign governments regardless of their ownership structure”.

TASS news agency however published details of more sweeping amendments, according to which the measures could apply to any media outlets receiving money “from international and foreign organisations, foreign citizens.”

Tolstoy said outlets that are put on the list will be subject to similar treatment as “foreign agent” NGOs under the law that was adopted in 2012.

Such media will “have to file the relevant reports and most likely mark its product,” he said.

The law applying to NGOs forced many organisations to close.

Others have complained that government institutions refuse to work with them following the acquisition of the “foreign agent” label, which in Russia is akin to being branded a spy.



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