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U.S. Media Brace for Russian Retaliation

Lawmakers, media regulator said close to imposing stricter rules on foreign media and ‘undesirables.’

14 November 2017

As anger mounts in Russian over the U.S. move forcing broadcaster RT to register as a foreign agent, Russia’s own foreign agent law could be expanded to cover the activities of media organizations.

 

RT, previously Russia Today, filed as a foreign agent yesterday, the deadline set by the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

"Between a criminal case and registration, we chose the latter," RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan tweeted, according to The Moscow Times.

 

Washington imposed the restrictions on the state-funded broadcaster amid allegations it used its global reach to spread misinformation about the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 

The State Duma said Friday that lawmakers were drafting amendments to bring media organizations within the scope of the 2012 foreign agent law, which obliges foreign-funded organizations engaged in political activity to register.

 

Russian lawmakers are also considering expanding the law on “undesirable organizations” to news outlets, an unnamed source told the daily Vedomosti, cited by The Moscow Times.

 

The amended law could place restrictions on American media such as CNN, VOA, and RFE/RL, as well as Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Vedomosti said.

 

The Duma is expected to pass the amendment tomorrow, according to Meduza.

 

The Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor is also drafting a measure establishing a special procedure” for “suspending and terminating the activities” of foreign media outlets, Meduza says.

 

There was also criticism of the U.S. restrictions on RT from a journalist rights group. "Compelling RT to register under FARA is a bad idea,” said Alexandra Ellerbeck of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

 

"We're uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda," Ellerbeck said yesterday.

 

 

  • The U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) originated in 1938 as a means to counter Nazi propaganda. Unlike the Russian law, it applies only to groups funded by foreign governments.

 

  • The number of active registrations under FARA has fallen sharply since the 1980s, the Justice Department notes. As of 2014, there were 360 active registrations, according to a 2016 Justice Department audit of the law.

 

  • The United States brought only seven criminal cases under FARA between 1966 and 2015.

 

  • Russia’s 2017 federal budget allocated almost 19 billion rubles ($315 million) to RT, according to Meduza.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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