Subject: In retaliatory move, Putin signs media 'foreign agents' law
(CNN)Russian President Vladmir Putin has signed amendments into law that
will allow foreign media outlets in Russia to be listed as "foreign
agents," according to state-run news agency Sputnik news.
Russian officials have said the change is a retaliatory response to the US
government's request that RT, the Russian TV network, register its
American arm as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act
Sputnik reports the amendments signed by Putin had been previously
approved by both chambers of the Russian parliament.
"According to the text of the law, media that receive financial assistance
from foreign states or organizations can be recognized as foreign agents,
while the decision on which outlets will be classified as 'foreign agents'
will be taken by the Ministry of Justice."
US scrutiny of Russian outlets
The operations of RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and Sputnik news
have faced greater scrutiny in the US over the past year. RT was singled
out in a intelligence community report in January on Russia's attempts to
influence the 2016 US election.
RT "conducts strategic messaging for [the] Russian government" and "seeks
to influence politics, [and] fuel discontent in the U.S.," the report
stated. The report also said Sputnik, a Russian government-controlled news
site, was "another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio
and online content."
RT had initially skipped an October deadline to register as a foreign
agent in an attempt to fight the Department of Justice's requirement. T&R
Productions LLC, the production company behind RT America, relented and
filed as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice in mid-November.
"Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to
influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals,"
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente
said in a statement at the time.
Russia threatens retaliation
The US demands have caused Russian officials to threaten similar
restrictions on US-funded media outlets acting in Russia, such as Radio
Free Europe and its television sister network Current Time.
Tom Kent, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said it was too
early to speculate on the effects of the new amendments.
"We can't speculate at this point (on) the effect of this new law since no
news organization has been specifically named as a foreign agent and the
restrictions to be imposed have not been announced," Kent said.
"But we can say we remain committed to continuing our journalistic work of
providing accurate and objective news to our Russian speaking audience."
US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman was in the Moscow bureau of Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty this month and said the administration is "very
concerned" about this new law, according to Kent.
In mid-September, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
issued a warning that Russia would retaliate if the US took action against
Russian-funded media outlets RT and Sputnik.
"When it comes down to a fight with no rules, when the law is twisted and
turned into an instrument for the destruction of a TV company, every step
against a Russian media outlet will be met with an corresponding
response," she said.
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