Russian Federation lawmakers vote in favor of labeling media 'foreign agents'

Russian Federation lawmakers vote in favor of labeling media 'foreign agents'

Moscow vowed to act swiftly in response to what it claims is a clampdown on Russian media in the U.S.

This measure was a response to the demand of the US Department of Justice to RT America, a US branch of the Russian television company, to register as a foreign agent. He added that the government will "use the opportunities offered by the bill for a timely quid pro quo response".

"This decision that we're 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", said Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament, according to RIA news agency.

The wording of the law is very broad, potentially allowing its use against any foreign media organisation operating in Russian Federation.

The legislation, passed in retaliation for the registration of English-language Russian news network RT under similar legislation in the United States, was drafted hastily and will likely be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin by the end of the month.

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

The broadly phrased bill will leave it to the Russian government to determine which foreign media outlets would be designated as foreign agents, said Leonid Levin, the head of the Duma committee for information.

He emphasized that the new legislation relates only to foreign media outlets and doesn't refer to Russian media with foreign funding.

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

The law requests all groups that receive foreign funding and engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as foreign agents.

The new bill expands the scope of the 2013 so-called foreign agents law which primarily targeted NGOs, forcing several of the most reputable to close and many more to curtail their work.

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

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

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