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Russian lawmakers pass law targeting foreign media as 'foreign agents'

15 November 2017, 02:09 | Erica Roy

State Duma passes amendment on media classified as “foreign agents”

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

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.

Russia's lower house of parliament on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill allowing the government to register global media outlets as foreign agents, a swift retaliation to the USA demands made to a Russian TV channel.

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

The law could require designated media outlets to disclose where they get their funding and how they spend it, though the bill does not specify on what basis foreign media would be compelled to register.

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

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

The wording of the bill passed Wednesday was so vague that it could be used against any news outlet based overseas with operations in Russian Federation.

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

It is expected to pass in the Federation Council, Russia's upper chamber of parliament, then ratified by President Vladimir Putin before coming into effect.

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

In November, the U.S. Ministry of Justice ordered Russia Today TV channel to register as a "foreign agent".

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

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

He denied it will affect any Russian media with foreign funding.

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.

Amnesty International said the bill was an attack on media freedom. They will also face a similar responsibility for such NGOs for breaching this legislation.

US investigators are reportedly looking into whether Russian government-funded outlets such as RT and Sputnik were part of Russia's influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election.

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