08:39 GMT +320 October 2019
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    Council of Europe's Rights Chief: Russian Media Foreign Agents Law 'Regrettable'

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    The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, has expressed his regret over a law passed by Russia's lower chamber, the State Duma, to recognize some foreign media as foreign agents in Russia.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The State Duma passed a law allowing it to classify media outlets with foreign funding as foreign agents. Amendments on the status of foreign agents have become a forced response to the harassment of Russian media in the United States and, in particular, the recognition of RT America as a foreign agent, the parliamentarians said.

    "#Russia's law may now treat mass media registered or funded abroad as "foreign agents", under rules similar to the ones which have stifled the environment for NGOs. These new restrictions on media freedom are highly regrettable," the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, said on Twitter.

    The Federation Council, the upper house of Russia's parliament, will approve the law on foreign agent media next week, first deputy chief of the Council's Foreign Affairs Committee and former Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak said.

    According to a source at the Justice Ministry cited by RIA Novosti, Russia may impose restrictions on the Voice of America as part of response measures. 

    US broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) said it cannot comment on the possibility of being recognized as a foreign agent in Russia, VOA Director Amanda Bennett told Sputnik.

    "VOA cannot comment on and will not speculate on any proposed actions by any other entities," Bennett said on Wednesday. 

    The source said the ministry sent Voice of America a notification about the adoption of amendments to Russian laws envisioning the possibility of recognizing some foreign media outlets as foreign agents in Russia.

    Russian media over the last few months has faced increasing pressure in the United States amid multiple allegations of its attempts to influence the country's public opinion, especially during the 2016 presidential campaign.


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