March 17, 2018

Russian lawmakers approve bill targeting foreign media

15 November 2017, 02:21 | Taylor George

AP Pavel Golovkin File

Russian Lawmakers Approve Bill Targeting Foreign Media

The third reading is seen as a formality, after which the amendments will have to be passed by the Senate and then be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

RT television, which is funded by the Kremlin to give a Russian point of view on global affairs, confirmed Monday it has registered as a foreign agent in the United States, meeting a deadline from the US Department of Justice.

The bill comes days after the Russian state-funded RT registered with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent following pressure from Washington.

USA 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. Russian Federation has denied any interference.

All political parties represented in the State Duma, the Russian Parliament's lower chamber, have expressed their support of the bill and are expected to pass it unanimously as early as Wednesday.

"The Russian authorities have previously used the "foreign agents law" to shackle and stigmatize dozens of the country's most highly regarded NGOs", said Denis Krivosheev. The bill serves as an amendment to the 2012 law that forced NGOs to adopt a "foreign agent" label if they receive funding from overseas.

Quiz How Well Do You Remember the 2014 Winter Games
Quiz How Well Do You Remember the 2014 Winter Games

Under the amendments to the law, which were adopted this year, political activity is linked to such fields as state-building, securing Russia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, enforcement of law, order and security, national defense, foreign policy, political system integrity, social and economic and national development of the country, regulation of rights and freedoms of man and citizen.

The move is likely to effect the Russian services of major global media outlets such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russian Federation". It requires them to publicly declare themselves as such and regularly provide detailed information about their funding, finances and staffing.

"We view this new media law with concern and surprise", Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin.

The report said that RT "conducts strategic messaging for [the] Russian government" and "seeks to influence politics, [and] fuel discontent in the U.S".

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