Russia prepares legislation for media with foreign financing
"Media registered on the territory of another state either receiving money or other means from a foreign structure - state structure or company or even from a Russian company with foreign financing - could be recognized as a foreign agent," vice speaker Pyotr Tolstoy said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.
The Russian authorities will determine which media outlets fall under the law, Tolstoy said. The draft legislation was expected to be approved by Russia's lower house of parliament this week.
RT, formerly known as Russia Today, has been accused in the U.S. of being involved in a Russian government effort to influence last year's presidential election to benefit the winning candidate, Donald Trump.
Contacts between members of Trump's electoral campaign and Russia are currently a subject of investigations by both the US Congress and the FBI.
The US Justice Department confirmed on Monday that RT had registered as a foreign agent in the country. The confirmation came after RT chief editor Margarita Simonyan said US authorities had threatened to arrest the head of the company's US operations if it failed to register.
A senior Russian lawmaker, Andrei Isayev, on Monday singled out the US broadcasters CNN, Radio Liberty and Voice of America, as well as Germany's Deutsche Welle, as potentially being forced to register as foreign agents in Russia.
Like Voice of America, RT is a government-funded media outlet focusing on a foreign audience.
"Russia is trying to maintain parity with the US. Whenever the US imposes new sanctions, Russia imposes sanctions in turn," said Pavel Sharikov, a US-Russian relations expert at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies in Moscow.
"The restriction against RT is not a traditional sanction. The decision was not made by Congress or the president."
Sharikov said Russia's new legislation would be selectively imposed. If it were not selective, he added, then the vaguely worded law could affect practically all Russian media outlets, including state media. ■