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Russia mulls bill against foreign media after Washington’s move to close down RT

Media outlets receiving foreign funding in Russia may be liable to registering as "foreign agents", said the Vice Speaker of the lower house, Peter Tolstoy.

Published: November 14, 2017, 5:37 pm

    On Monday, RT America was forced to register as a “foreign agent”, a move ordered by US authorities.

    No later than Wednesday, the Russian State Duma will adopt a reciprocal law before sending it to the Federation Council for approval.

    It does not intend to restrict freedom of speech or the work of the media, Federation Council Speaker, Valentina Matviyenko noted. The measures will actually be a mirror response to Washington’s harassment of Russian media in the US.

    Only rough details of the Russian proposal have been released. The Upper House will consider the law immediately after its adoption by the State Duma. The next session of the Council will be held on November 22.

    The draft bill so far includes:

    • Any foreign media that receives funding or property from abroad may need to register as a foreign agent.
    • The amendments will not mention specific publications or TV channels.
    • The decision to list a media publication as a foreign agent will be taken by the Ministry of Justice.
    • Those media outlets refusing to register will fall under the law on foreign agent NGOs.

    A working group was set up to draft legislative amendments that provide for retaliatory measures against Washington’s move against Russian media.

    If the proposals are adopted, they may affect the likes of Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle, BBC, Voice of America and CNN.

    In the same week that the the US Justice Department demanded that the Russian-backed RT America network register as a foreign agent or face arrest, the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DNL) announced that it was launching a program to massively interfere in NATO-partner Hungary’s internal media.

    The US State Department’s new program will be funding Washington-selected Hungarian media outlets to “increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues in Hungary”.

    Hungary has had nearly three decades of democracy since 1989, but in a statement, the DNL said: “Projects should aim to have impact that leads to democratic reforms, ” suggesting another US project for regime change in Hungary.

    Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has managed to retain a high level of popularity through two tough election cycles by embracing democracy.

    Meanwhile it remains hard to find anything in leading newspapers like The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Figaro, or Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about the lack of freedom of press in countries like Saudi Arabia or Ukraine.

    “There is nothing that RT or Sputnik International does that other state-funded broadcasters are not doing,” John Wight, a Sputniks contributor pointed out.

    Another analyst, Andrew Korybko, said Washington did not want the broadcaster to comply with any new regulations but was rather “looking for a ‘legal pretext’ to shut the company down”. He said it would be extremely difficult for RT to meet the Justice Department’s deadline on time.

    RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said the US move amounted to a “cannibalistic deadline”.

    By doing this, the US is laying the groundwork for taking legal action against it for potential noncompliance, he explained. He said “the US’ “Foreign Agents Registration Act” (FARA) is being abused to intimidate Americans”.



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