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State Duma passes first reading of bill designating individuals as foreign agent media

January 12, 15:32 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The bill complements the foreign agent media law passed by the State Duma at the end of its autumn session

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© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, January 12. /TASS/. Russia’s State Duma has passed the first reading ofa bill which demands that foreign agent media outlets set up Russian legal entities and makes it possible to designate individuals as foreign agent media.

The bill complements the foreign agent media law passed by the State Duma at the end of its autumn session in response to the demand made by the United States Department of Justice that the US branch of Russia’s RT TV channel register as a foreign agent.

"I partly agree that we should abandon the practice of giving proportionate responses and begin making initiatives, but Russia adheres to the generally recognized international laws and respects freedom of expression and democratic values adopted throughout the world," said one of the bill’s authors, Duma Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy.

"This is the reason why we, unlike our counterparts, do not make such initiatives but only respond to measures taken against our news outlets," he stressed. According to Tolstoy, "this kind of interference may take various names and forms, so we need to be as prepared and armed as possible."

Setting up Russian legal entities

"In case a media outlet is designated as a foreign agent, it must set up a Russian legal entity, acting as a foreign agent, in order to disseminate printed information, audio and video reports," the document reads.

It also stipulates that Russian legal entities are to be set up within a month after a media outlet is designated as a foreign agent. If there already exists a Russian legal entity, the media outlet must notify the country’s authorities within a month’s time.

Law applied to individuals

At the same time, the Mass Media Law will now provide the Russian authorities with a possibility to designate individuals as foreign agents, particularly in case they receive funding from abroad.

Tolstoy earlier told TASS that the law would be applied to the owners of foreign agent media outlets. According to Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications Leonid Levin, controlling Russian bloggers is not the goal, but the amendment is necessary since "media outlets are owned not only by companies but by individuals as well."

Violators’ websites to be blocked

According to the bill, information disseminated by foreign agent media outlets should be correspondingly marked, and in case of a violation the dissemination of information will be stopped. Russia’s Justice Ministry will give media outlets at least 15 days to remedy the violation. However, if foreign agent media outlets fail to do that, internet operators will be ordered to block access to their websites.

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