Russian Parliament passes law to introduce foreign agent status for media outlets

Russian Parliament passes law to introduce foreign agent status for media outlets

The bill would give Russian authorities the ability to designate foreign media outlets, presumably including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and DW, as "foreign agents".

"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.

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

During Wednesday's debates, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin described the new legislation as a "symmetrical answer" to the U.S. and a signal that "our media can't be treated like that".

The bill will pass to the upper house, which is expected to approve it, and then to Putin for signing in the next two weeks.

"They forced us to take these measures", he said.

The law designating media outlets as foreign agents, passed by the State Duma on Wednesday, will allow Russia's authorities to immediately and symmetrically respond to the encroachment on the freedom of Russian media overseas, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"You shouldn't think that after this law enters force. all foreign media in Russian Federation will automatically become foreign agents", he told parliament.

"I would like to hope that it will only be used once and there will be no need for more retaliatory action", Levin said.

The text of the amendment defines affected mass-media outlets as legal entities that are "registered in a foreign nation, or a foreign structure that operates without registering as a company, engaged in spreading printed, audio, audio-visual or any other content prepared for an unlimited group of people".

According to the draft law, a media organisation classified as a "foreign agent" will be subject to the same requirements that are applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law.

Media outlets that refuse to register as foreign agents would face sanctions similar to those applied to NGOs and other groups, which are now regulated by the original foreign-agents law.

Russian legislators have unanimously approved a bill allowing the government to register worldwide media outlets as foreign agents.

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

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.

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