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Russia To Require Foreign Media To Register As Foreign Agents


Covering Russia could get tougher for foreign reporters there. Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, passed legislation today requiring international media to declare themselves as foreign agents. And as NPR's Lucian Kim reports, this is payback.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Back in January, U.S. intelligence agencies said Russian government news channel RT was part of a Kremlin effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. As a result, the Justice Department demanded the RT register as a foreign agent in the United States, which the channel did on Monday under protest. That same day Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov visited RT's Washington bureau to show his support.


ANATOLY ANTONOV: It seems to me that it's very important that you can explain everybody the reality in the world.

KIM: Meanwhile in Moscow, the parliament scrambled to adapt legislation to hit back at U.S. media working in Russia. Under the changes made today, foreign media that get financing from abroad may have to register as foreign agents. Russia's justice ministry will determine which outlets will have to sign up.

The amendments were passed unanimously by a vote of 414-0. Sponsors of the changes say they won't restrict press freedom but are only a reciprocal response to the U.S. requirement. Russian TV commentator Konstantin Eggert says the legislation will have a chilling effect.

KONSTANTIN EGGERT: There'll be definitely a much more cold and frozen climate for foreign media in Russia. No bureaucrats, no civil servants will be willing to cooperate with foreign media in such a climate.

KIM: The New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is condemning the changes. It says the Justice Department's actions against RT were ill advised, but it's calling the Russian government's response punitive and outrageous. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF KILLER MIKE AND EL-P'S "SEA LEGS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lucian Kim is NPR's international correspondent based in Moscow. He has been reporting on Europe and the former Soviet Union for the past two decades.