In a move that some say hearkens back to the old Soviet Union, Russian lawmakers want to label foreign media as “foreign agents.”
The move would make "outside media" liable to stiff fines for content deemed to discredit parliament or disparage state authorities, according to a Moscow Times report.
United Russia, the country’s largest political party, wants to label media outlets that receive 50 percent of their financing from out of country as “foreign agents” and gain the power to oust lawmakers without a court ruling, news reports said Monday.
The proposed lock-down on representatives and free press was reported Monday, in Izvestia, which cited United Russia Deputies Vladimir Burmatov and Ilya Kostunov as its sources. “Many media receive financing from abroad and act as a mouthpiece for a foreign government," Kostunov told the daily.
For his part, Dmitry Gudkov, a senior Duma deputy with A Just Russia, called the latest proposed measures a “continuation of this repressive policy.”
“This will not stop anything but will breed more hatred,” Gudkov said by phone.
Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Kremlin’s human rights council and a lawyer by training, called the bill about foreign-financed media “pointless,” saying that the country’s mass media law, which he co-authored, already bans media outlets from receiving more than 50 percent of their financing from abroad.
“Making the financing of all the media transparent would be the right thing to do, but this has not been proposed,” Fedotov said by phone.
Meanwhile, Pavel Gutiontov, secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia, called the proposal pure propaganda and an insult to some news outlets.
Ironically, state-financed English-language TV channel Russia Today had to secure an exemption last week from the so-called NGO bill to avoid being labeled a foreign agent. Russia Today is officially registered as a nongovernmental organization and receives payments from Google and YouTube, which are U.S. companies.
Meanwhile, a senior Duma source told Vedomosti that parliament might consider a bill in the fall that would allow United Russia's majority in the lower chamber to strip lawmakers of their mandates without a court ruling for a variety of offenses.
Under the proposal, politicians making comments to media outlets that are deemed to discredit parliament or disparage state authorities constitute grounds for such punishment.
Additionally, citations by the ethics committee would be issued for persistently skipping Duma sessions, failing to publish income declarations or using diplomatic passports for personal trips abroad.