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Russian Parliament passes law to introduce foreign agent status for media outlets
15 November 2017, 01:06 | Glen Norman
State Duma passes amendment on media classified as “foreign agents”
State Duma's decision came in response to the recent requirement from the US Department of Justice to register RT America TV channel, the American branch of the Russian television company, as a foreign agent.
Russian legislators have unanimously approved a bill allowing the government to register global media outlets as foreign agents.
The Moscow-based broadcaster has become a focus of the investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
During Wednesday's debates, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin described the new legislation as a "symmetrical answer" to the U.S. and a signal that "our media can't be treated like that".
The legislation is widely expected to pass a third reading in the Duma, before moving to the upper house for approval. Afterwards, a media outlet holding the status of a foreign agent will be subject to restrictions and commitments provided for non-profit organisations (foreign agents).
Under the 2012 law, foreign agents have to apply for inclusion in a government register, and submit regular reports on their sources of funding, their objectives, how they spend their money and who their managers are.
RT television, which is funded by the Kremlin to give a Russian point of view on worldwide affairs, confirmed Monday it has registered as a foreign agent in the United States, meeting a deadline from the US Department of Justice.
The label would apply if the outlet is either registered overseas, receives foreign funding or gets paid by a Russian company that is itself financed from overseas, the State Duma announced on Tuesday.
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.
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