Russia moves to target foreign media in RT registration row


Russia moves to target foreign media in RT registration row

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption RT has been ordered to register as a foreign agent in the US

Russia has moved closer to introducing a law that will allow the government to list any foreign media operating in the country as a foreign agent.

The proposal, in retaliation for Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT being told to register as a foreign agent in the US, has been unanimously approved at the lower house of parliament.

US-backed Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty could be hit.

RT is accused of being part of Russia's alleged meddling in the US election.

The Russian proposal would affect foreign-registered media outlets which receive funding from outside Russia. They would be subject to additional requirements and failure to meet them could result in the suspension of their activities.

A similar law already exists targeting charities and other civil society groups.

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"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 bill was passed with 414 votes in favour. The result was then met by a short burst of applause from MPs.

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

The justice ministry would have to decide which outlets the steps applied to and under what circumstances, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow reports.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The lower house of parliament backed the proposal

RT said on Monday it had registered as a foreign agent in the US following a request by the Department of Justice.

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

The measure would require RT to label anything it produces, making it clear its reports are distributed on behalf of the Russian state. The broadcaster said it would challenge the requirement in court.

Russia has denied it interfered in last year's US presidential election.

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