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

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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.

The Russian bill would allow the government to mirror the USA demands, said the chairman of the Duma committee for information, Leonid Levin.

Russia's lower house of parliament has unanimously approved a bill allowing the government to register global media outlets as foreign agents, days after the USA demanded the same of the Russian state-funded RT television channel.

Once registered, they will face requirements now applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. Russian Federation has denied any interference.

The amendments now need to be passed by the Senate and then be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, after which they will enter force immediately.

The screen shows the results of vote on the amendments to the Russia's Law on Media in the 3rd (final) reading during a plenary session of the Russian State Duma on November 15.

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The bill will pass to the upper house which is expected to quickly rubber-stamp it next week before it goes to Mr Putin.

The draft legislation states that Russian authorities can designate foreign media as "foreign agents" but it does not say on what basis officials will make that determination, or to which media the designation will apply.

"We are talking about an opportunity for the executive-power bodies to take mirror measures against countries that are infringing upon Russian journalists' freedom of action and expression", RIA Novosti quoted Tolstoy as saying.

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

It states that such entities can be "recognized as foreign mass media executing the functions of a foreign agent if they receive monetary funds or other property from foreign states, government agencies, foreign-based and worldwide organizations, foreign citizens and persons without citizenship or any other persons acting on behalf of foreign citizens and organizations", according to TASS. It requires them to publicly declare themselves as such and regularly provide detailed information about their funding, finances and staffing. Critics of the law have said the definition of political activity is so loose that it could be used against nearly any nongovernmental organization.

One of the key sponsors of the new bill, Deputy Duma Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy (United Russia) called the motion "a forced decision that would not affect the freedom of speech in any way".

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