Russia gets tough on US media

MOSCOW. – Russian lawmakers raced yesterday to draft measures requiring US media outlets to register as foreign agents, saying they could be adopted as early as next week. 

American social networks might also be affected because US news organisations would have to post a “foreign agent” tag on their social media pages, said Pyotr Tolstoy, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament. The measures, which are being prepared ahead of Russia’s presidential election in March, would be a huge blow to already tattered US-Russia ties.

State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin charged deputies with updating existing legislation after state-controlled Russia Today (RT) television was ordered by Washington to register as a “foreign agent” by Monday. Volodin told Russian reporters the new measures, which are likely to affect dozens of US news organisations operating in Russia including CNN and Voice of America, could be adopted at first reading on Wednesday and at a third and final reading next Friday.

Washington has been fighting what it calls a barrage of “fake news” from Russian media, including RT and the Sputnik news agency, which it says is aimed at interfering in US domestic politics.

“What the US authorities are doing today is an infringement on fundamental civil rights, on freedom of speech. The United States speaks beautifully about the freedom of speech when it comes to other countries but acts dogmatically itself,” Volodin said.

Tolstoy called for the mobilisation of all of the country’s political forces, saying it was “an emergency situation”.

Lawmakers said the measures targeting US media would be “reciprocal” and would set the same limitations that US authorities were seeking to impose on Russian media. In a Facebook post, Tolstoy suggested that social networks would not have to register as foreign agents. – AFP

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