Russian Duma embraces amendments defining foreign agents in media

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

Russia's broadside against USA media is part of the fallout from allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the US presidential election previous year in favour of Donald Trump.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed in the third and final reading a law on designating media outlets as foreign agents if they receive funding from overseas. They would be subject to additional requirements and failure to meet them could result in the suspension of their activities.

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.

"This decision that we are taking is a forced one, none of us wanted to take such a decision, and it will not influence freedom of speech in our country at all", Tolstoy said, quoted by RIA Novosti. Russian Federation has denied any interference.

The legislation, passed 414 to 0 in retaliation for the registration of English-language Russian news network RT under a similar statute in the United States, was drafted hastily and is likely to be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin by the end of the month. "The way it is written now, it appears it could be used for many different purposes".

Outlets that don't comply could be banned from Russian Federation.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin harshly criticized the USA demand regarding RT as an attack on freedom of speech, and had warned that Russia would retaliate.

The media outlets singled out as foreign agents will face the requirements now applied to foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations under a 2012 law. It requires them to publicly declare themselves as such and regularly provide detailed information about their funding, finances and staffing.

"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom", Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

"The Kremlin has been tirelessly building a media echo chamber that shuts out critical voices", Mr. Krivosheev said, "both inside Russian Federation and from overseas".

"Ultimately a lot will depend on how exactly the law is implemented and to what extent it restricts foreign media's ability to act", he said.

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