MOSCOW, November 13. /TASS/. Journalists employed in media outlets registered as foreign agents may respectively be labeled as foreign agents as well, if their professional activity is connected with reporting on social and political events, Chairman of the Russian State Duma (lower house) Committee for Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications Leonid Levin told journalists on Wednesday.
"If someone writes certain stories related to the socio-political situation, then [that person] risks possibly appearing [on the list of foreign agents]," Levin said replying to journalists.
"If he [the reporter] is covering culture, sports or music, such cooperation is unlikely to run the risk of getting listed as a foreign agent," the lawmaker added, stressing that this was his personal opinion.
Passing a law on registering individuals as foreign agents won’t automatically mean that all journalists working for foreign agent-labelled media will find themselves on the foreign agent list as well. Some of them may be put on this list due to their activity, he specified.
On Tuesday, Levin told reporters that amendments to the bill seeking to regulate the activity of foreign media outlets by recognizing them as foreign agents include several classifying factors that would help determine what organization or individual would get this status.
In response to a question on whether the amendments include placing an individual on the foreign agents list just for receiving money from abroad, Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty and the Prevention of Interference in Russia’s Internal Affairs Andrei Klimov stressed that this would be impossible. In order to be deemed a foreign agent, one "has to actively cooperate with officially recognized foreign agents in our country," he explained.
According to Russian law, political activity is the qualifying factor for a person or an organization to be considered a foreign agent, Klimov added.
About the bill
Earlier, Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty and the Prevention of Interference in Russia’s Internal Affairs Andrei Klimov explained that Russian MPs plan to expand the existing law on foreign agents to include individuals as well as legal entities on the list of those that can potentially be considered foreign agents. "This means not only owners of a [media] resource, but also those who spread information to an unlimited number of persons, namely on the Internet, while they receive funding from abroad. In this case, the source of the money does not matter: it can be a state organization, a non-government body, an individual, a stateless person. What matters is that the funding remains foreign," he stressed.
Such an individual can continue acting in the way he or she sees fit, however, they will be bound by certain restrictions and must be registered at the Russian Ministry of Justice, providing the corresponding documents, the senator added.
In late 2017, Russia introduced a law on media outlets exercising the role of foreign agents. According to the law, a media outlet receives the status of a foreign agent if it receives funding from abroad. In January 2018, the Russian State Duma approved the first reading of another bill that obliges all media with the status of foreign agents to establish a Russian legal entity to work in Russia and includes individuals on the list of potential foreign agents. This move came as a response to the demands by the US Department of Justice for RT America (the US branch of the Russian television network) to register as a foreign agent in the United States.