MOSCOW, November 10. /TASS/. Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) can pass a reciprocal foreign agent law for mass media outlets in response to the US Justice Department’s demand that Russia’s RT TV network should register as a foreign agent, State Duma Vice Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said on Friday.
"Yes, that’s the issue at hand," he said answering a question from a TASS correspondent. "Tit-for-tat steps will be taken, which will impose the same restrictions that Americans are trying to impose on Russian media on the basis of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act," he explained. Tolstoy stressed that he considers the actions by the US Department of Justice against the RT television channel unacceptable. "All the talk about freedom of speech, which we have heard from the United States over the past 25 years, concerns everyone except one country, that is, Russia," he said. "Furthermore, no evidence, no hard facts have been provided, while decisions are made on the basis of the ‘Russian propaganda’ term. In these circumstances, Russia cannot sit idle and pretend that nothing is happening," the politician warned.
The State Duma is beginning to draft bills on tit-for-tat restrictions against media outlets financed from abroad and posting undesirable content in Russia, he said.
"We decided to start working on a number of legislative decisions, which will be aimed at tit-for-tat restrictions against media outlets financed from abroad and posting undesirable content in Russia," Tolstoy said.
"The issue at hand is fairly clear legal criteria that will be applied," he went on to say. Tolstoy added that the State Duma Information Policy and Media Committee will be working on these measures.
"State Duma Speaker [Vyacheslav Volodin] will meet with the leaders of the State Duma factions today. We believe this is an extraordinary situation, which requires immediate response from all political forces in the country," Tolstoy stressed.
The US Department of Justice earlier said that the US branch of Russia’s RT television channel, RT America, should register as a foreign agent by November 13. RT Managing Director Alexey Nikolov said a meeting of the Provisional Commission of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) on Information Policy and Media Interaction that the TV channel had not registered as a foreign agent.
Later on, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said the TV network had to agree to register as a foreign agent, since otherwise the company will not be able to work in the US, as its bank accounts can be frozen, and its head could face arrest.