Putin Bites Back After US Interference with Russian Backed Television Channel

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Danang Vietnam on Nov. 11

The rivalry between Russia and the US continues to deepen as the USA alleges that Russian efforts swayed the election while Russia claims infringement of free speech.

Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a new law on Saturday allowing global media outlets to be listed as foreign agents, according to Russian state media.

The letters did not specify what potential restrictions they could face, but lawmakers have said designated media could be subjected to detailed financial-reporting requirements and required to label published material as coming from a foreign agent.

Russia US Media
Russian President Signs 'Foreign Agents' Media Legislation

It said it had written to the USA government-sponsored Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), along with seven separate Russian or local-language news outlets run by RFE/RL.

The bill is based on the 2012 law that forced NGOs to adopt a "foreign agent" label if they receive funding from overseas. It's yet not clear if Russian Federation will target traditional USA news organizations as well. The law is intended as direct retaliation for the new USA requirement that the Kremlin-backed RT news outlet register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department - which the website and television channel finally did earlier this month.

"The "foreign agent" legislation goes against Russia's human rights obligations and commitments, and the extension of its scope to foreign media..."

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Within hours after the bill passed the State Duma, the Justice Ministry sent warnings to several Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) news services.

The U.S. Justice Department required RT to register in the wake of a January finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that RT and Russia's Sputnik news agency spread disinformation as part of a Russian-government effort to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Exactly how (or if) these dueling "foreign agent" designations will actually affect news outlets operating in the USA or Russian Federation is not yet clear.

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Putin's spokesman says the US hampers the Russian news outlets' operation in violation of media freedom, "actions on the basis of the principle of reciprocity can't be excluded".

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