Lawmakers have stressed that the bill on including media outlets operating in Russia but funded from abroad in the Foreign Agents Law is a response to the US actions that forced RT America to register as a foreign agent.
Russia’s State Duma has adopted in the third final reading an amendment that allows it to mark media outlets funded by foreign countries as foreign agents, with the Ministry of Justice set to make decision on the issue.
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The amendment was developed by a working group led by deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Pyotr Tolstoy.
The amendments were added to the draft law on extrajudicial blocking of organizations’ websites banned in Russia which was adopted in October.
According to Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the US authorities’ decision forces Russia to reciprocate and Russia will also respond to such actions in the future.
RT Forced to Register Under FARA
RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan announced that in order to avoid the closure on the territory of the US the RT broadcaster has agreed to comply with the demand of the US Department of Justice to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2017 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam called restrictions on the Russian media outlet “attack on freedom of speech” and stressed that Russia “will have to formulate some kind of response and it will mirror.”
According to Simonyan, the US authorities are creating conditions that make it impossible for RT to work in the country because the United States cannot simply shut down the broadcaster, since that would be a violation of press freedoms. The pressure against RT has led to mass resignations in the broadcaster’s US office and difficulties in finding new staff.
Pressure on Russian Media
Amid allegations of Russian meddling in the US 2016 election campaign, the US authorities have increased pressure on Russian media. In particular, Twitter banned advertising from the accounts of Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, with Facebook later claiming that it found election-related posts allegedly used by Russia to influence the outcome of the presidential race.
Responding to the allegations Sputnik said it had never used paid promotion on Twitter, whereas RT revealed that Twitter itself offered the broadcaster to place ads on its platform during 2016 election campaign and concealed this fact during US congressional hearings.
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Following Twitter’s decision, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that it was another aggressive step aimed at blocking actions of Russian media, and warned that Moscow’s retaliatory measures would follow.