Russia: Proposals to Extend 'Foreign Agents' Law to Media Outlets

Update: 29 Jan 2018 No reply yet
Year 20 Nov 2017 Country Russian Federation Category E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner Article 19 , AEJ , EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 2
20 Nov 2017 Russian Federation E. Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State Article 19 , AEJ , EFJ/IFJ Level 2
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On 10 November 2017, Russian legislators announced that they were drafting amendments to Russia’s 2012 ‘Foreign Agents Law’, extending its provisions to foreign-owned media outlets. These amendments have been portrayed as a ‘tit-for-tat’ retaliation in response to the US Department of Justice requiring Russian state-funded TV Channel RT to register under the US Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). The Russian amendments were approved on 15 November by the lower house of parliament. They must now be approved by the upper house of parliament, before being signed into law by President Putin. It is understood that the upper house will discuss the amendments on Wednesday 22 November. The Foreign Agents Law currently requires all Russian NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaged in loosely defined ‘political activities’ to register as ‘foreign agents.’ NGOs must indicate their ‘foreign agent’ status in publications, and are subject to onerous reporting requirements, special inspection orders, and restrictions on the activities they may undertake. Criminal and administrative sanctions for non-compliance include, inter alia, fines of up to 500,000 roubles ($16,000) or imprisonment of up to two years. The amendments would extend this legislation to cover media outlets registered in foreign countries, and receiving funding from a variety of foreign actors. Once registered as a ‘foreign agent’, the outlet would be obliged to label all transmissions and publications as produced by a ‘foreign agent’.

Updates

06 Dec 2017 : On 5 December 2017, Russia`s Justice Ministry announced that it had designated nine U.S. government-funded press outlets as "foreign agents". The list includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and seven other affiliates.
27 Nov 2017 : On 25 November 2017 the amendments to the “Foreign Agents” Law were signed by President Putin, thus officially coming into force.
22 Nov 2017 : On 22 November 2017 the upper chamber of the Russian parliament approved the amendments to the “Foreign Agents” Law, extending it to media outlets. The law is now awaiting signature by President Putin.

Follow-ups

New 29 Jan 2018 : Broadening of "foreign agents" status for media in Russia detrimental to freedom of expression online, says OSCE Representative
20 Nov 2017 : Reacting to the new law, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights stated that 'these new restrictions on media freedom are highly regrettable'.
20 Nov 2017 : Registration of media as "foreign agents" not acceptable says OSCE media freedom representative
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