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Russia to amend law to classify US media 'foreign agents'

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said some US media in Russia were trying to turn US public opinion against Moscow.

FILE: A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on 31 July, 2017. President Vladimir Putin on 30 July 2017. Picture: AFP.

MOSCOW - Russia’s parliament warned on Friday some US and other foreign media could be declared “foreign agents” and obliged to regularly declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said parliament could back legislation as early as next week in response to what lawmakers view as US pressure on Russian media.

“Possible restrictions will be the same as those taken by the United States,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

He said some US media in Russia were trying to turn US public opinion against Moscow.

“We understand that it’s essential to protect the interests of our citizens and the country and we will do this in the same way as the country which lays claim to be the gold standard and mentor and which is constantly talking about freedom.”

Russian lawmakers said the move was retaliation for a demand by the US Department of Justice that Kremlin-backed TV station RT register in the United States as a “foreign agent”, something Moscow has said it regards as an unfriendly act.

The US action against RT came after US intelligence agencies accused Russia of trying to interfere in last year’s US presidential election to help President Donald Trump win the White House, something Moscow has denied.

RUSSIAN ELECTION

Russia faces a presidential election next March. Vladimir Putin is widely expected to stand again and to win. He remains broadly popular though critics accuse him of suppressing dissent not least by tight control of domestic media.

Lawmakers will conduct a first reading of the new restrictions on 15 November and try to complete approval in two further readings by the end of next week.

US and any other foreign media that fall under the new restrictions could have to regularly disclose to Russian authorities full details of their funding, finances and staffing and might be obliged to say on their social media profiles and internet sites visible in Russia that they are “foreign agents”.

The Duma earlier this year launched an investigation into whether CNN, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and “other American media” were complying with Russian law.

US government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said last month Moscow had threatened to brand their Russian language service projects “foreign agents” in retaliation for US pressure on RT.

Russia said the same month it had dropped accusations against CNN International of violating Russian media law and that the US channel could continue broadcasting in Russia.

San Francisco-based social network Twitter has also angered Russian authorities when it accused RT and the Sputnik news outlet of interfering in the 2016 U.S. election and banned them from buying ads on its network.

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