21:53 GMT +321 October 2018
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    US Watchdog Explains Support for Draft Foreign Media Restrictive Measures

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Vice chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee Fred Brown supports the new draft laws that would impose new restrictive regulations on foreign media in the United States, but believes that the US media should be transparent as well.

    US lawmakers on Tuesday introduced several bills aimed at toughening rules for foreign media, including Russian ones, after they forced RT America and Sputnik’s contractors to register as "foreign agents," which called into question the media freedom and prompted retaliatory measures.

    "I'm in favor of as much transparency as possible, including for American media," Brown said. "When we rewrote the SPJ Code of Ethics in 2013-14, there was a great deal of discussion about the need for media transparency. There were those who argued that as long as potential conflicts of interest were disclosed, there was no need to avoid conflicts of interest. The drafters of the code rejected that argument, holding that both avoidance and transparency were necessary."

    Brown explained that it all has to do with sources of administrative and financial support. US congressmen want to have the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) engaged in preparing regular detailed reports on the work of the foreign media in the United States, and to make the outlets include a conspicuous statement in their broadcasts that the programming is produced on behalf of a foreign principal.

    "The SPJ Code of Ethics also urges journalists to "Act Independently," and in cases where conflicts of interest cannot be avoided, to disclose those conflicts," he noted. "News media, including American media, have been slow to adopt that as a principle, in my opinion. So I would support these changes, especially given that they have bipartisan support. Such comity is all too rare in today's politics."

    "But, more than that, I think the public needs to know who's paying for, or influencing, the information that is being provided," Brown added. "I'm not convinced that needs to be done at least once an hour, but it's certainly a critical tool in helping the readership and audience determine the nature of the information they're receiving."

    Sputnik and RT have faced significant pressure in the United States over the past few months, with US lawmakers and intelligence community claiming they might have been involved in Russia’s alleged attempts to influence US 2016 presidential election. Both the media and Russian authorities have repeatedly refuted the allegations as unsubstantiated. The Russian Embassy in the United States noted that the conditions for the operation of media in the United States are deteriorating.

    In November, Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of RT and Sputnik news agency, said that the demand to register was discriminatory, contradicted the principles of democracy and freedom of speech, and barred the outlets from equal competition with foreign broadcasters working in the United States that were not registered as "foreign agents."

    On Tuesday, Congressmen Elise Stefanik and Seth Moulton presented a bipartisan bill that would oblige foreign media companies to provide more information, particularly on their ownership and government ties, to the FCC.

    According to the measure, US-based foreign media outlets would be required to submit semiannual reports to the FCC. The FCC will in its turn have to make such reports public on its website no later than 30 days after an outlet’s report submission or the date it is submitted to the Congress. The legislation would also require to include statements in the programming, and it will have to be done hourly during video programming longer than 60 minutes, according to the document.

    US Congresswoman Anna Eshoo  on Tuesday introduce the bill, dubbed the Foreign Entities Reform Act of 2018 (FERA). In the release, published on Eshoo’s website on Tuesday, the lawmaker explained the legislation would require broadcast, cable, and satellite companies, already registered under FARA, to publicly reveal the source of their programming along with the announcements for the duration of the content.

    Analysts told Sputnik that the US government has taken another step toward state censorship and management of news with new measures introduced by lawmakers.

    Related:

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    Foreign Agent Media Law in Russian Upper House's Draft Agenda for Nov.22 Meeting
    Putin Signs Amendments to Law Allowing to List Media as Foreign Agents
    Foreign Media Law Can Be Reversed If US Pressure on Russian Media Eased - MP
    Russian Federation Council Panel Backs Law on Foreign Agent Media
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