Friday, 24 November, 2017

Russian Federation moves ahead with rules targeting foreign media

Russia warns US media of possible foreign agent status Russian Federation moves ahead with rules targeting foreign media
Melinda Barton | 15 November, 2017, 14:08

The law, which is focused on media, is considerably broader than the USA legislation, which only targets state-funded organizations.

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

Likely targets are USA news organizations which receive government funding, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as well as the privately-owned American television channel CNN.

At the same time, the websites that those organisations use have not been blocked in Russian Federation, even though those resources "are used to prepare and disseminate materials that discredit Russia's domestic and foreign policies, to form negative public opinion and destabilise the situation in the country", the law-makers said.

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

The bill was passed unanimously with 414 votes in favour.

"A hybrid war has been declared against us and we are obliged to respond", Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said in parliament.

The bill will go to the upper house and then to President Vladimir Putin for signing.

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 legislation did not include a list of media organizations that will be targeted, and lawmakers said they would be chosen by Russia's Ministry of Justice.

"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". Many have been forced out of the mainstream Russian media space.

The Russian authorities will tighten their stranglehold on press freedom in the country today by introducing a bill that designates foreign-funded news organizations as "foreign agents" and imposes onerous obligations to declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing, said Amnesty International.

A Russian law adopted in 2012 forces NGOs that have worldwide funding and whose activities are deemed "political" to undergo intensive checks and label themselves as "foreign agents" on paperwork and statements. They will also face a similar responsibility for such NGOs for breaching this legislation.

Washington considers RT a propaganda arm of the Kremlin and told it to register its American operation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act aimed at lobbyists and lawyers representing foreign political interests.

U.S. intelligence agencies allege that RT served as a Kremlin tool to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.