Russian parliament approves 1st reading of bill to curb "foreign agent" media
13 Jan 2018, 00:42 ( 13 Jan, 2018)
The Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, Friday approved the first reading of a bill specifying possible restrictions on media acting as "foreign agents" in Russia.
According to the bill, a media outlet, after being listed as a foreign agent, has one month to set up a Russian subsidiary to distribute its products and inform clients that the materials come from a foreign agent.
It also stipulates that if the authorities find irregularities in the activities of foreign agent media, they may send a warning demanding corrections.
If this is not done, the authorities will order communications operators to block access to such media.
To become a law, the bill has to be passed by the Duma in two more readings, then be endorsed by the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and signed by President Vladimir Putin before being published officially.
In November, Putin approved a law giving the government the power to label foreign-funded media outlets in Russia as "foreign agents".
The law was enacted after Russia's state-owned English news channel RT America was forced to register as a foreign agent in the United States by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
U.S. authorities have accused Russian media of influencing public opinion during the 2016 presidential election by spreading fake news.
Moscow has called the forced registration an obstacle to Russian media activities in the United States and a violation of the freedom of speech.
In December, Russia's Ministry of Justice blacklisted U.S. government-funded Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and seven of their subsidiaries as foreign agents.
These news outlets were stripped of the right to enter the Russian parliament.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered U.S.-based Russian media outlet RIA Global LLC to register as a foreign agent.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a briefing Friday that Moscow considered the move as a "demonstration of outright discrimination against our media outlets and an attack on freedom of speech."