Russia also wants to label media as “agents

Russia also wants to label media as 'agents

Many newspapers, magazines and internet portals are “interfering in politics and spreading propaganda on behalf of foreign powers,” two deputies from the ruling party united russia told the newspaper izvestia.

The “agent” stigma is to apply to media that receive more than 50 percent of their funding from abroad. The state duma in moscow will discuss the initiative in september, it said. Kremlin opponents criticized the plan as a further step toward undermining freedom of opinion and speech.

“unfortunately, the initiative fits the scheme,” a senior employee of a german publishing house told the dpa news agency in moscow. After recent steps against non-governmental organizations, action against the critical press would be “the next logical step,” stressed the man, who did not wish to be named.

Criticism also came from the german journalists’ association (djv). The project is “an unjustifiable encroachment by the state on the freedom of the press,” said djv head michael konken. “this serves to defame individual newspapers”.” german publishers such as axel springer ag and the waz media group are also active in russia.

The public has the right to know who finances representatives of the fourth estate "and what their independence is like," said delegate ilja kostunow. It is "common knowledge" that the media always work in the interests of their publishers. Financing is also not always transparent. Duma vice president sergei shelesnyak confirmed the "idea" to the interfax agency.

Critics of the kremlin pointed to two other bills with which the leadership apparently wants to increase the pressure on opponents of the government. On the one hand, the head of parliament is supposed to be able to fire "disagreeable" deputies. Secondly, parliament wants to raise the hurdles for volunteer helpers. Authorities see danger in self-organization of thousands of volunteers, vedomosti newspaper wrote.

On friday, the duma passed the agent clause for foundations that receive money from the west. In addition, the parliament reintroduced the offense of defamation into the penal code and drastically increased the fines for defamation. Mikhail fedotov, the kremlin’s human rights commissioner, urged the second chamber of parliament not to approve the amendments. The laws were whipped through the state duma, he wrote in a letter to the head of the federation council valentina matwijenko.