Russian MPs back law targeting foreign media: Agencies

2017-11-15 20:55
Russian lawmaker Leonid Levin. (Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP)

Russian lawmaker Leonid Levin. (Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP)

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Moscow - Russian MPs on Wednesday backed new legislation allowing foreign media outlets to be listed as "foreign agents" in a reciprocal response to US pressure on Kremlin-backed TV channel RT.

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

Outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which receive funding from the US Congress, would be forced to register as foreign agents.

Members of parliament have given contradictory statements on whether the law could apply to commercial TV network CNN.

A total of 409 lawmakers out of 450 voted to back the amendments, while no one voted against or abstained, Tass state news agency reported.

The lower house of parliament's deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said in parliament the reciprocal measures were "forced" by the actions of the United States.

"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.

The amendments were rushed in, with MPs skipping the first reading of the law on a technicality.

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 Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A Russian law adopted in 2012 forces NGOs that have international funding and whose activities are deemed "political" to undergo intensive checks and label themselves as "foreign agents" on paperwork and statements.

Many NGOs have closed in response to the legislation.

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

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.

The Moscow-based broadcaster has become a focus of the investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

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