Russian Federation Council approves the bill on recognizing foreign media as foreign agents

The Federation Council of Russia approved a bill allowing the Russian Ministry of Justice to recognize any foreign media as a foreign agent.

Dozhd (Rain TV) reported that the Duma adopted an amendment in all readings in one day as a response to the actions of the US authorities against Russia Today news agency. The United Nations Human Rights Council or UNHRС recommended the Federation Council to reject the bill and send it for revision. However, the senators approved the bill at a plenary session on November 22, 2017. 154 people voted for the bill; one person abstained.

The law does not impose any censorship and in fact does not limit the activities of foreign media and their funding, underlined the Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Law Andrei Klishas, who presented the bill.

The senators carefully examined the conclusion of the UNHRC, but decided that "from the point of view of legal technicality, the subject of regulation, from the point of view of regulatory objectives," the bill is correct and can be adopted, added Klishas.

Senator Lyudmila Narusova criticized the bill. She stressed that Russian lawmakers should give an adequate and proportional response to the harassment of Russian media by the US, but the haste with which the president's corresponding instruction was carried out is reflected in "some sloppy wording," she stressed. Decision making is given to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and the absence of criteria for which it can recognize media as an agent makes the situation dangerous, she noted.

This is an amendment to the law on the media, in accordance with which any legal entity or any "foreign structure without the formation of a legal entity" that disseminates information and receives funding and other property from foreign sources may be recognized as a foreign agent by the authorized executive authority, namely the Ministry of Justice. They will be the subject to the provisions of the federal law that regulates the activities of nonprofit organizations that perform the functions of a foreign agent.

Earlier, the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights recommended that the Federation Council reject this bill and send it to the Duma for revision.

In its conclusion, the UNHRC drew attention to the fact that the bill equates the media with foreign agents only based on the availability of foreign funding while any foreign media outlet receives revenues from foreign sources.

The State Duma adopted the amendment in all readings in haste last Wednesday. The deputies explained the necessity of this law as a response to the actions of the US Department of Justice regarding the Russian TV channel Russia Today, which was obliged to register as a foreign agent.

Last week, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation sent a notice to nine media outlets warning of the possibility of being included in the list of foreign agents. Among them were Voice of America, Kavkaz.Realii, Krym.Realii, Sibir.Realii, IdeL.Realii, the TV channel Current Time, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Tatar-Bashkir service Azatliq Radiosi (“Radio Liberty”) and the project Factography.

  Foreign Agent Law, Russia