Moscow: The lower house of Russia’s parliament gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries’ actions against Russian news outlets. The Kremlin-controlled ‘State Duma’ approved the bill on its final, third reading. The equally pliant upper house of parliament is set to quickly rubber-stamp the measure before Russian President Vladimir Putin signs it into law.
Russia has repeatedly complained in recent months that Western countries were improperly restricting Russian media by banning their operation or denying visas to their journalists.
In early June, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called in representatives of American media, including ‘The Associated Press’, to warn that they could be denied renewal of their visas and accreditation.
The new bill also allows Russia’s prosecutor general to cancel the registration of media outlets for disseminating ‘illegal, dangerous, unreliable publicly significant information or information expressing clear disrespect for society, the state, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as aimed at discrediting the Russian armed forces’.
Many foreign news organisations suspended or curtailed their operations in Russia following the passage in March of a law calling for up to 15 years in prison for reports seen as discrediting the Russian military.
The Russian Foreign Ministry in May ordered the closure of the Moscow bureau of the state-funded ‘Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’ in response to Canada’s ban on RT, a Russian state-controlled broadcaster.
In February, as Russia built up troops along Ukraine’s border, German broadcaster ‘Deutsche Welle’ was ordered to close its Moscow office after Germany banned the broadcast of RT’s German-language programmes.
Russia in recent years has persistently clamped down on independent journalism.
Following the start of the Ukraine conflict, many significant independent news media shut down or suspended operations. They included the ‘Ekho Moskvy’ radio station and the ‘Novaya Gazeta’ newspaper, whose editor, Dmitry Muratov, was last year’s co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.