Russia: Putin signs off law targeting journalists as 'foreign agents'

Joanna Estrada
December 3, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that amends an existing law on media outlets deemed "foreign agents" that critics say is used to muzzle dissent, limit news plurality, and discourage the free exchange of ideas.

Should anything a foreign media outlet publish violate Russian regulations, "the new norms allow the Russian government to block the websites of foreign agents or legal entities established by them", TASS reported.

New law signed by Putin will come into effect immediately.

The vaguely worded law would apply to Russians and foreigners who work with media declared foreign agents or distribute their content and receive money from overseas, potentially exposing journalists, their sources, or even those who share material on social networks to foreign agent status.

An initial foreign agent law was adopted by Russian Federation in 2012, giving authorities the power to label non-governmental organisations and human rights groups as foreign agents - a term that carries a negative Soviet-era connotations.

Nine human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, had called for the legislation to be dropped as it was being approved by lawmakers. The law also says that any individual who distributes foreign media could be labelled a foreign agent.

Russian Federation says it wants the law as a tit-for-tat mechanism if its journalists are defined as foreign agents in the West.

The new law applies to anyone who distributes content produced by media outlets registered as foreign agents and receives payments from overseas.

"'Foreign agent' is a persistent phrase with a sharply negative character", the letter reads.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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