A new Russian bill regulating mass media would not automatically register foreign media outlets as foreign agents, but their refusal to do so would prevent them from working in Russia, one of the key sponsors of the legislation has said.
Deputy Duma Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy (United Russia) told Interfax on Tuesday that the new draft would not automatically mark all foreign mass media as foreign agents.
“No, the criteria used in the bill [for identifying foreign agents] are having foreign owners among the company’s shareholders or any money transfers from a foreign state or foreign state agencies – even when this happens through an intermediary company registered in Russia,” the lawmaker said, noting that the list of the criteria can still be expanded.
The final decision on whether a particular media outlet matches the description of a foreign agent should be made by the Russian Justice Ministry, according to the bill.
The draft law orders companies registered as foreign agents to mark their products and services accordingly – effectively meaning that this fact should be mentioned on the company’s website or printed products.
When reporters asked Tolstoy what would happen if a foreign mass-media outlet refused to register as a foreign agent after the bill is passed, he answered that “such mass media would have to stop working in the Russian Federation.”
Russian lawmakers began to draft the legislative measures 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. On November 10, RT America (officially registered as T & R Productions LLC) filed as a foreign agent with the US Department of Justice.
Earlier, MP Tolstoy told reporters that Russia’s reciprocal bill could get final approval from the lower house of parliament as early as this Wednesday. Another sponsor of the motion, MP Andrey Isayev (United Russia), added that companies that could fall under the new regulations included Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle, CNN, and Voice of America.