Russia acts to end bias against domestic media

2020-12-25 12:05:08

Russia's State Duma, or lower house of parliament, approved a bill on Wednesday that would allow the country's telecoms watchdog to take action against incidents of discrimination against Russian media outlets, including censorship of content. An internet platform would be accused of violating fundamental human rights and freedoms if it attempts to censor or restrict access to information of public importance to Russian society, the legislation reads. Russia's prosecutor general, with the Foreign Ministry, will decide if a violation has occurred. Under the legislation, the prosecutor general will then inform the telecoms regulator, Roskomnadzor, which would be granted the authority to partially or fully block access to the internet platform in breach. To take effect, the bill must be approved by the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament, and be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the State Duma also passed a draft legislation in a third reading, asking non-registered public groups involved in political activity and receiving foreign funding to be considered foreign agents, along with individuals participating in politics in the interest of the foreign actors that fund them. "If you receive money from abroad for your political activities, please register as a foreign agent and continue working," lawmaker Vasily Piskaryov, one of the bill's authors, was quoted as saying in a Duma statement. "But inform government bodies and Russian citizens in the interests of which government you are acting," he said. Groups or individuals deemed foreign agents had previously been required to register with the Justice Ministry, label publications with the tag and submit detailed paperwork or face fines. According to Russian state news agency Tass, the list of foreign agents will be available online. The media will be obliged to identify individuals and groups as foreign agents in publications about them. This demand will not apply to publications by internet users, including bloggers. The State Duma announced that failure to comply with the new framework could see offenders sentenced to up to five years in prison.