The chair of the Russian lower house has said that the recent US order for RT to register as a foreign agent should prompt similar measures against American mass media engaged in “unconcealed interference” in Russia’s internal politics.
“It would be the right thing to do if our parliamentary committee [for information policy] develops some proposals that mirror the US actions and protect the citizens of our country from the unconcealed interference that the US mass media has unfolded on Russian territory,” Vyacheslav Volodin was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
“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 statement came in response to the US Department of Justice’s ultimatum for RT America to register as a foreign agent before November 13, threatening to freeze the company’s assets and arrest its head if this does not happen. RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said in an interview with Channel 1 television that the broadcaster would have to comply with the demand.
On Friday, Volodin discussed the issue at a conference with the heads of all four parliamentary caucuses. During the meeting, the head of the parliamentary majority caucus United Russia, Sergey Neverov, proposed that the reciprocal bill should include measures against foreign social networks. “Not only will we develop our proposals on the issue, the future commission would develop broader mechanisms that could include social networks,” the MP was quoted as saying by RBC.
Another United Russia MP, Pyotr Tolstoy, noted that the future bill would concern the mass media from all foreign countries, not just the US. “The bill must have a general approach; we cannot single out some certain nation. The legislative norm would regulate all foreign mass media outlets,” he said.
Deputy Duma speaker Ivan Melnikov, representing the largest opposition party in the parliament, the Communists, told reporters after the meeting that all parliamentary caucuses had consolidated position over the issue. He also said that in the nearest future lawmakers intended to either draft a separate bill with mirror measures or amend existing laws with corresponding provisions.
Another Communist Party MP, Ivan Kharitonov, proposed much more radical measures. “In my opinion it would be fair if the State Duma made a statement and a proposal to the nation’s leaders to sever diplomatic relations and close our sky for any aircraft that is heading to or from the United States,” RIA Novosti quoted Kharitonov as saying. Other participants of the meeting have not issued any public statements regarding this proposal.
Russia 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,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.