Duma could pass restrictions against foreign media this week – deputy speaker

The laws regulating foreign agent status for mass media in Russia could be amended by the lower house of parliament as early as this Wednesday, Deputy Duma Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy has told the press.

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We have previously said that we would try to solve this issue fairly fast. We are going to submit the motion as an amendment to a bill that has been approved in the first reading and vote on the whole package in the second reading,” TASS quoted Tolstoy as saying on Monday.

If such a procedure gets support from the State Duma Council, we would look into it in the second reading on Wednesday. It is possible that we will hold the third reading on Wednesday as well and the bill will be passed this week, as we have promised,” Tolstoy added.

The State Duma Council on Monday voted to sanction the submission of additional amendments to the bill allowing websites of undesirable organizations to be blocked after a prosecutor’s order and without a court warrant. The bill was passed in the first reading on October 26.

MP Andrey Isayev (United Russia) told Interfax that lawmakers decided on new amendments that would allow any media outlet that receives funding from a foreign government or near-government structures and that are actively working within Russia and interfere in the Russian electoral process to be recognized as foreign agents. When asked to give examples of media that could be affected by the bill, Isayev mentioned Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle, CNN, and Voice of America.

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Russian lawmakers began to develop legislative measures requiring foreign mass media to register as foreign agents after the US Department of Justice ordered RT America to register as a foreign agent before November 13, threatening to freeze the company’s assets and arrest its head if it does not comply.

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said last week that the US sanctions against RT should prompt similar measures against American mass media and its “unconcealed interference” in Russia’s internal politics. “We will try to draft the proposal at the Duma council on Tuesday and vote on it at the plenary session on Wednesday, it is possible that we will pass the motion within one week,” Volodin said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has previously warned the US that any hostile moves against RT would trigger reciprocal measures in regards to American media working in Russia. “If someone starts to fight dirty, perverting the law by using it as a tool to eradicate the TV station, every move aimed against the Russian media outlet would be repaid in kind,” the ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said.

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