The Russian government has taken a drastic step to discourage its citizens from reading the news, by labeling journalists foreign agents. This is because of the Nobel Prize that was awarded to an imprisoned journalist for human rights activism. The reporter who won the prize is being held without trial in Russia on what many belief are trumped-up charges of treason.
Russian lawmakers approved a bill that would label news media outlets as foreign agents if they are funded from abroad. Even bloggers who have more than 3,000 visitors a day could be affected by the law. This is because the changes in the legislation expand the definition of media to include any website with over one thousand daily visitors or any outlet with more than 50,000 unique viewers per day.
Web sites will have to disclose their funding sources and agree to be overseen by Russia’s media watchdog agency. The bill passed its second of three required readings by the State Duma in a vote of 443-1. This was then sent to Russia’s fractious upper house for final approval.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the move was made to mirror US legislation and mirror the norms of international law. This is because The U.S has a similar foreign agents registration act that requires not only media outlets but also lobbyists and non-profit groups funded from abroad to file reports on their funding and operations.
US intelligence agencies have accused the Russian government of staging cyber-attacks during the U.S election in an attempt to influence its outcome this is due to Hillary Clinton’s loss. They stated that Russia used state-funded propaganda and paid internet trolls as part of a disinformation campaign to discredit Secretary Clinton and help Donald Trump win the election.
This bill is an attempt to limit foreign influence on Russian citizens through the media. This is because, after receiving a Nobel Peace Prize this year for his work as a human rights activist, the jailed opposition leader has called for a boycott of next year’s presidential election in Russia. He even stated that he is willing to be imprisoned again if this happens.
In 2014, a law was passed that labeled non-governmental organizations receiving international funding as foreign agents similar to the media outlets being discussed here. Once a group or organization is labeled a foreign agent it can face harsh penalties for even minor infractions of the law. This includes raids on their offices and fines for failing to provide enough information on funding.
This move comes after a Moscow court sentenced Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, to 30 days in prison for resisting police orders at an unauthorized anti-corruption demonstration. Police had broken up the rally even though it had been approved by city officials. This is due to his calls for a boycott of the March 2018 presidential election after he announced his intentions to run.
Have Russia’s actions against journalists and news outlets gone too far? What do you think?
Russia has passed a law requiring bloggers who have more than 3,000 daily visitors to register as foreign agents. The law was passed to fight censorship by establishing an agency to oversee all media outlets.