Moscow (GPA) – The new laws would allow the Kremlin to apply the label to US media companies operating in Russia.
Russia’s Duma (the lower house of parliament) unanimously voted in favor of the measure. The proposal was drafted as a response to the US crackdown on Russian broadcaster RT which forced the network to register as a foreign agent with the US Department of Justice on Monday.
The new laws are included among the amendments as part of a larger bill that lays out a set of media regulations. The amendments concerning foreign media would place the responsibility of designating which outlets are “foreign agents” on the Russian Justice Ministry.
Reasons for a possible foreign agent designation can include networks run by foreign governments, corporations or individuals. Once the designation is applied to a media organization, they would have to brand themselves as such in all their reporting, as well as turn over regular financial reports to the Russian government.
As stated above, the reason for these new Russian laws is centered around the same designation being applied to the company which owns RT America, the Russian state-run media outlet in the US. Now the US media is outraged that Russia is doing the same thing, potentially targeting media outlets such as the privately-owned CNN or the US state-run outlets Voice of America (VOA), and Radio Free Europe (RFE).
It should be noted that VOA and RFE are the exact equivalents of what the US claims RT and Sputnik are. The US government directly funds both to disseminate misinformation among populations in hostile countries. VOA’s propaganda has a history of having such a distorted version of events that it wasn’t even available in the US until 2013 to “protect the American public from propaganda actions by their own government.”
The fact that VOA and RFE – both inventions of the Cold War – are still around should show how patient Russia has been with the US, yet now that the west has fully embraced their hypocrisy, it seems this patience is running thin. This feeling was voiced in the Duma by Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of parliament, who told reporters “When they spit in your face, you can, of course, wipe it off … Or you can let the other side know that it’s unacceptable to do that, and it will have certain consequences.”
Tolstoy also seemed to feel that Russia had been the patient and polite party in this scenario, saying “We have put up with things that we should not have for too long.”
While it’s still unclear just precisely the punishments will be for violent paying these new laws, most figure it will primarily be in the form of fines. Several western outlets have worried expulsion from Russia could be a punishment, but the Russian Foreign Ministry has denied this.
Both RT and Sputnik (as well as many other non-Russian outlets) were accused of “interfering” in the 2016 US presidential election by spreading “fake news.” When the report was finally released on this issue by US intelligence agencies, the only examples they pointed to were two shows on RT, one of which, Breaking the Set, had been off the air since around the time of the 2012 election.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.