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Russian MPs back law targeting foreign media

Russian MPs back law targeting foreign media

Moscow vowed to act swiftly in response to what it claims is a clampdown on Russian media in the U.S.

Russian MPs on Wednesday backed new legislation allowing foreign media outlets to be listed as "foreign agents" in a reciprocal response to USA pressure on Kremlin-backed TV channel RT.

Likely targets are US news organizations which receive government funding, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, as well as the privately-owned American television channel CNN.

Members of parliament have given contradictory statements on whether the law could apply to commercial TV network CNN.

The screen shows the results of vote on the amendments to the Russia's Law on Media in the 3rd (final) reading during a plenary session of the Russian State Duma on November 15.

"A hybrid war has been declared against us and we are obliged to respond", Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said in parliament.

Russian Federation has moved closer to introducing a law that will allow the government to list any foreign media operating in the country as a foreign agent. Head of RT Margarita Simonyan said that it was a forced choice between registration and a criminal case.

The legislation did not include a list of media organizations that will be targeted, and lawmakers said they would be chosen by Russia's Ministry of Justice.

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The bill will now pass to the upper house, which is expected to quickly rubber-stamp it next week, and then to Putin for signing.

Tolstoy told parliament the amendments would not be automatically enforced, but would be selectively applied by the justice ministry.

"I would like to hope that it will only be used once and there will be no need for more retaliatory action", he added.

The label would apply if the outlet is either registered overseas, receives foreign funding or gets paid by a Russian company that is itself financed from overseas, the State Duma announced on Tuesday.

Amnesty International has warned the law will allow the Russian authorities "to tighten their stranglehold on press freedom". They will also face a similar responsibility for such NGOs for breaching this legislation.

RT television, which is funded by the Kremlin to give a Russian point of view on global affairs, confirmed Monday it has registered as a foreign agent in the United States, meeting a deadline from the US Department of Justice.

USA intelligence agencies have alleged that RT served as a tool for the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.