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State Duma introducing significant fines for encroachments on foreign agent media law

For officials, the penalties will stand at 200,000 rubles and for legal entities, at up to 5 mln rubles

MOSCOW, January 24. /TASS/. Russia’s State Duma has endorsed a bill introducing fines of up to 5 million rubles [about $ 87,700] for encroachments on the law that regulates the activity of mass media registered as foreign agents.

The initiative to introduce the fines were came from deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov and senator Andrei Klishas, who chair committees at the Duma, the lower house of parliament, and the Federation Council, the upper house.

The bill adds a new clause to the Code of Administrative Offenses. It is titled ‘Encroachments on the Procedures for Foreign Mass Media Outlets Performing the Role of Foreign Agents and/or the Russian legal Entities Instituted by them and Performing the Functions of Foreign Agents’.

The bill stipulates the limit for liability of an individual for encroachments on the law in the form of a fine of up to 100,000 rubles or an arrest of up to 15 days. For officials, the penalties will stand at 200,000 rubles and for legal entities, at up to 5 mln rubles.

The bill also contains the notion of a crude encroachment the law [more than twice during a year] committed by a media outlet as such or by a Russian legal entity it has founded or an employee or proxy of the entity.

"The operations of mass media categorized as foreign agents imposes definite responsibilities and obligations on them," said Pavel Krasheninnikov, the chairman of the State Duma committee for state construction and legislation. "The failure to comply with them should entail liability in order to prevent violations and impunity."

At the end of 2017, the Russian authorities adopted a law on the media functioning as foreign agents. It provides the legal grounds for assigning the status of a foreign agent to a media outlet if it gets financing from abroad.

The Duma amended the law on January 12 by passing a bill that demands institution of Russian companies by foreign agent media for operations on the Russian territory, on the one hand, and enables the authorities to assign the status of foreign agents to individuals.

The bill emerged as a response to the demand by the U.S. Department of Justice to register RT America channel as a foreign agent in the U.S.

The Russian Justice Ministry said on December 5 it had assigned the foreign agent status to five media outlets. The list includes the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, which are fully financed by the U.S. government, the Current Time TV channel, Radio Liberty’s Tatar/Bashkirian service (Azatliq Radiosi), as well as the news portals Sibir.Reality, Idel.Reality, Faktograf, Kavkaz.Reality, and Krym.Reality.