Russian Federation to register global media as 'foreign agents'

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Lawmakers approved amendments that would allow any global media that receive financing from overseas to be classified as "foreign agents", a measure previously used only against NGOs.

Lawmakers unanimously voted to back the amendments in rushed second and third readings within a few hours on Wednesday.

Russian State Duma on Wednesday passed in the third and final reading the bill require mass-media outlets operating in the country but funded from overseas to register as foreign agents.

He has been fiercely critical of US measures towards Russian media, but he has not given wholehearted support to the draft legislation, saying at the weekend it "might be a little too harsh".

The law could be used against US media such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which receive funding from the US Congress.

"A hybrid war has been declared against us and we are obliged to respond", Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said in parliament.

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.

Russian MPs backed amendments that would allow worldwide media that receive financing from overseas to be classified as "foreign agents", RIA Novosti news agency reported, a measure previously used only against NGOs.

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Tolstoy told parliament the amendments would not be automatically enforced, but would be selectively applied by the justice ministry.

Non-compliant foreign organizations could be blocked without a court order in Russian Federation.

"I would like to hope that it will only be used once and there will be no need for more retaliatory action", Levin said.

After acquiring this status, these media outlets will be subject to the restrictions and responsibilities, which are now envisaged for non-governmental organizations labeled as foreign agents.

Media outlets that refuse to register as foreign agents would face sanctions similar to those applied to NGOs and other groups, which are now regulated by the original foreign-agents law.

The measures were introduced in response to a move by the U.S. Department of Justice to force RT America, linked to the Kremlin-backed RT, to register as a "foreign agent" after U.S. intelligence officials accused Russian Federation of seeking to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

US intelligence agencies have alleged that RT served as a tool for the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 USA presidential election.