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Russia’s Putin signs media ‘foreign agents’ law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that will require certain foreign media outlets operating in Russia to register as “foreign agents.”

Under the new law, signed by President Putin on Saturday, any media outlet operating in Russia and funded by a foreign state may be designated a foreign agent by the Russian Ministry of Justice, in what is seen as a retaliatory move against the registration of Russia’s state broadcaster RT with the US Justice Department as a foreign agent following pressure from Washington.

The Russian bill had been earlier introduced and approved at both chambers of the Russian parliament — the State Duma and the lower house.

Any foreign media entity “regardless of its organizational and legal form, might be considered as functioning as a foreign agent if it receives funds and/or any other assets from foreign states, foreign governmental organizations, international and foreign organizations, foreign citizens, persons without citizenship,” the legislation stipulates.

The law also covers foreign media outlets operating through authorized persons or Russian legal entities that are financed through foreign sources.

The law will oblige foreign media to file regular reports on their funding and activities or face legal action.

Washington’s move to register RT’s US-based affiliate company as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) came after US intelligence officials accused the Kremlin of having used Russian media organizations to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election in favor of the then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Moscow has adamantly dismissed the meddling allegation.

Last week, Moscow restricted US-funded media outlets operating in the country, such as Radio Free Europe, the television network Current Time, and Voice of America, and warned that they could be registered as “foreign agents” under the new law.