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Russia's State Duma passes amendments to foreign agent media law

15 November 2017

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

Decisions regarding registration of media as "foreign agents" are to be made by the Ministry of Justice.

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.

Russian MPs backed amendments that would allow worldwide media that receive financing from overseas to be classified as "foreign agents", RIA Novosti news agency reported, a measure previously used only against NGOs.

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Its passing follows RT registering with the US Justice Department following claims from US intelligence agencies that the television channel served as a Kremlin tool to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

The bill was sent to Russia's upper house of parliament to be rubber-stamped before being submitted to President Vladimir Putin for final approval. Russian Federation has denied any interference.

On Wednesday, November 15, State Duma deputies gave the second and final third readings to the draft law on the possibility of pre-trial blocking of websites of organisations, the activities of which are banned in Russian Federation.

The Kremlin denies meddling in the election and has said the restrictions on Russian broadcasters in the United States are an attack on free speech.

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The media outlets singled out as foreign agents will face requirements now applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law.

A similar law already exists targeting charities and other civil society groups.

The law requests all groups that receive foreign funding and engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as foreign agents.

They can also be subjected to spot checks by authorities to make sure they comply with the rules. Any information they publish has to include a mention that the source of the information is a "foreign agent", according to the 2012 law.

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

Russia's State Duma passes amendments to foreign agent media law