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US Restricting Bill Targeting Media Seeks to Further Penalize Whistleblowers

The US draft legislation changing the requirements for registration of foreign agents and targeting media outlets is aimed at further penalizing whistleblowers and interfering with journalistic work, Marcello Ferrada de Noli, the chairman of Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights, told Sputnik.

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) — US Congressmen David Cicilline and Matthew Gaetz introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give the US Justice Department increased investigative authority to identify and prosecute foreign news entities that "seek to unlawfully influence the political process." The bill particularly targets the RT broadcaster and comes as a response to foreign media coverage of WikiLeaks revelations that emerged during former US Democratic Party nominee Hilary Clinton’s presidential race.

"The most relevant issue about the Cicilline/Gaetz Bill has to do with infringements to the freedom of speech principle. This principle is, otherwise, supposed to be solid in the US legislation and also in Sweden. The Bill's argument is only apparently stated as aiming to the prevention of influences by foreign governmental media outlets in election process. In fact, it is clearly directed to further penalize whitleblowers," de Noli said.

The bill is violating civil rights and freedom of expression, while putting obstacles in the implementation of journalistic work as well, the non-governmental organization's chairman noted.

"Another aspect, whose compatibility with constitutional rights might be questioned, is the mentioning of the 'subpoena duces tecu [subpoena for production of evidence]' as part in the proceedings. This mean that the material in possession of journalist can be obtained by a direct, written order from the courts. What about the protection of sources, etc. All that seems vanishing in the bill. In other words, the proposition might end infringing both civil rights and freedom of expression principles, and impairing true journalistic work," de Noli stressed.

Russian media outlets broadcasting in Europe and the United States have been facing a barrage of accusations by Western officials about allegedly spreading fake news and attempting to influence public life. In the United States, intelligence community has claimed Russia used its media outlets to swing the outcome of US November presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, but have not provided any evidence to back their claims.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior officials have repeatedly stated that Moscow refrains from meddling in internal affairs of foreign countries.

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