Russian Federation moves to gag foreign media

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The legislation, passed in retaliation for the registration of English-language Russian news network RT under similar legislation in the United States, was drafted hastily and will likely be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin by the end of the month.

On Wednesday, the State Duma passed the second reading of the foreign agent media amendments, with 409 out of 450 Duma members voting in their favor.

On Wednesday, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was premature to discuss the perceived "harshness" of the law.

Peskov refrained from comment on how the bill could be applied and which foreign media outlets could be singled out.

Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said the revisions would give the Justice Ministry authority to register foreign media outlets as foreign agents.

Under the new rules, Russia's ministry of justice will determine which companies will be labeled foreign agents.

"We are making it possible.to take selective retaliatory measures - that is the idea of the law, and I hope it will be enforced this way".

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"Sadly, this is now likely to become the fate of the very few news outlets in Russian Federation who have fought hard to preserve their independence by securing foreign funding for their work". After a foreign media outlet is declared a foreign agent, it will become subject to restrictions now imposed on non-profit organization declared foreign agents.

Under the amendments to the law, which were adopted this year, political activity is linked to such fields as state-building, securing Russia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, enforcement of law, order and security, national defense, foreign policy, political system integrity, social and economic and national development of the country, regulation of rights and freedoms of man and citizen.

Critics of the law have said the definition of political activity is so loose that it could be used against nearly any non-governmental organisation.

"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russian Federation".

The German government also strongly criticized the legislation. Yahoo News has reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has interviewed a former Sputnik correspondent about his work at the website.

"They forced us to take these measures", he said.

"Ultimately a lot will depend on how exactly the law is implemented and to what extent it restricts foreign media's ability to act", he said.

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