Moscow's foreign agent law bites back at U.S. crackdown on Russian media

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

State Duma passes amendment on media classified as “foreign agents”

Russian lawmakers submitted legal amendments Tuesday that would allow the government to register global media outlets as foreign agents, a retaliatory move to a demand the USA made to a Russian TV channel.

Decisions regarding registration of media as "foreign agents" are to be made by the Ministry of Justice.

Once registered, they will face requirements now applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations.

The legislation is part of the fallout from a row between Moscow and Washington over allegations that the Kremlin interfered in the USA presidential election past year in favour of Donald Trump. Russian Federation has denied any interference.

The Kremlin denies meddling in the election and has said the restrictions on Russian broadcasters in the United States are an attack on free speech.

In the 450-seat State Duma, the lower house of parliament, 409 lawmakers voted on Wednesday to approve the legislation on second reading, with none against, according to TASS news agency.

It now needs the approval of the upper house and President Vladimir Putin before becoming law.

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

The Russian proposal would affect foreign-registered media outlets which receive funding from outside Russia.

According to the bill, a media organisation classified as a foreign agent will be subject to the same requirements that are applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law.

The instruction came under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), adopted in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation on USA soil and applied to those engaged in political activity for a foreign government.

Companies will be forced to declare their finances, funding and staffing if the rules are implemented.

Critics of the law have said the definition of political activity is so loose that it could be used against nearly any non-governmental organisation.

Amnesty International said the bill was an attack on media freedom.

"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russia", Denis Krivosheev, the group's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.

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