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Everything you need to know about foreign agent media law

Russia’s Justice Ministry designated nine mass media outlets as foreign agents on December 5

TASS-FACTBOX. December 5, 2017. Russia’s Justice Ministry designated nine mass media outlets as foreign agents on Tuesday.

They are Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Current Time TV, the Tatar-Bashkir service of Radio Liberty (Azatliq Radiosi), Sibir.Realii, regional project Idel. Realii, Factograf project, Kavkaz.Realii and Krym.Realii, the ministry said.

Foreign mass media outlets are labeled as foreign agents in Russia if they receive funding from foreign countries directly or through intermediaries, state bodies, international and foreign organizations, citizens of other countries or persons without citizenship.

After acquiring this status, these media outlets will be subject to the restrictions and responsibilities, which are currently envisaged for non-governmental organizations (NGO) labeled as foreign agents. They will also face the same responsibility as those NGOs for breaching the legislation.

They are obliged to provide information on the leadership and spending, and also financial audit.

Andrey Klishas, who chairs the upper house’s committee for constitutional legislation and state construction, said on November 22 that the law does not introduce any restrictions on the mass media activity in Russia.

Law on foreign agent media

The federal law on mass media outlets with the functions of foreign agents was passed on November 25, 2017.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the law was a tit-for-tat move after the demand of the US Department of Justice to RT America, a US branch of the Russian television company, to register as a foreign agent.

The demand was announced in September and RT was forced to register with this status on November 13. The TV channel’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said the registration as foreign agent will significantly complicate its activity.

On September 29, 2017 a bill was submitted to the State Duma on prejudicial shutting down the websites of organizations outlawed in Russia and including it into Article 15.3 of the federal law "On Information, information technologies and protecting information."

On October 26, the bill was passed in the first reading. By the second reading, the document was amended and included a provision on media labeled as foreign agents. On November 15, the bill was adopted in the second and third readings.

On November 22, despite the protest of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, the document was endorsed by the Federation Council. On November 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on amending the current legislation to include provisions on mass media acting as foreign agents.

On November 29, a draft amendment into the Russian Code of Administrative Offences, which stipulates fines of up to $85,000 for violating the foreign agent media law, was submitted to the State Duma (lower house of parliament). The amendment was drawn up by head of the Duma Committee for State Construction and Legislation Pavel Krasheninnikov and chairman of the Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Committee for Constitutional Legislation and State Construction Andrey Klishas.