Russia Designates 9 US Media Outlets as Foreign Agents

Russian Justice Ministry

Russia's justice ministry said in a statement on its website on Tuesday it had now formally designated USA government-sponsored VOA and RFE/RL, along with seven separate Russian or local-language news outlets run by RFE/RL, as "fulfilling the role of foreign agents". "We call on the Justice Ministry to immediately reverse its anti-press action and to allow a free flow of news in the country".

The ministry further listed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and several of its affiliates, after warning last month they could be affected. The ban also includes the Current Time television station, which is produced by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and factograph.info, a website produced by Radio Liberty.

The new designation subjects affected US -backed news outlets to the same requirements that are applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law.

US intelligence officials accused the Kremlin of using Russian media it finances to influence USA voters, and Russian state broadcaster RT last month reluctantly complied with a US request to register a US -based affiliate as a "foreign agent" under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

"The Duma decision might be looked upon as censorship or infringement of the rights of American journalists here but we understand that we have to make such decisions because the Congress has made such a decision in regards to RT", Duma deputy speaker Pyotr Tolstoy told The Washington Post on Monday.

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RT disputes that it is an agent of the Russian government, arguing that it offers alternatives to mainstream news coverage, and Russian leaders have vowed to respond in kind. The law leaves it to the Russian Justice Ministry to single them out. "But we have to respond to it".

No access to Duma for "foreign agents"?

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in November empowering the government to designate media outlets receiving funding from overseas as "foreign agents" and impose sanctions against them.

At the same time, Zakharova added that Russian Federation "is particularly determined to maintain constructive relations with the United States".

Other media outlets are not expected to be included on the foreign agents list, according to the State Sovereignty Protection Committee chairman, Andrey Klimov.

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