Illustration photo: Thomas Nilsen

Russia tightens the screws on foreign media and websites

Looking for a copy of the New York Times or Die Welt for sale in Moscow? Then you should hurry, by January 1st, distribution can be banned.
December 04, 2017

Just a week after President Putin signed the law pawing the way to brand international media operating in Russia as ‘foreign agent’, Russian authorities now target the distribution of foreign print media.

Newspapers from abroad, suspected of violating the anti-extremism law, risk having their distribution license revoked, newspaper Kommersant reports. The practical steps to annulling the permission to distribution foreign media is now being worked out by Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor.

A possible ban on distribution can apply to both newspapers and other periodicals, like magazines and journals. Cancellation of distribution permit can come if the media violate the law on extremism or abuse of media freedom, disclose state secrets, supports terrorism, foul language, pornography or print a receipt on how to make explosives or narcotics.

There are not many outlets selling foreign newspapers in Russia, especially not outside Moscow and St. Petersburg. Member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights and Civil Society, Ivan Zasursky, says to Kommersant that the new regulation could “apply to The New York Times, German and French newspapers.”

Additionally to media outlets, the State Duma in mid November passed a law on pre-trail blocking of websites of undesirable organizations, reports Open Russia, one of the organizations listed as ‘undesirable’.

The law opens for blocking any online information containing information banned in Russia. News-portal Meduza reports that this, in theory, means the legislation would empower the Attorney General’s Office to block any website or webpage that publishes instructions for circumventing the government’s internet censorship.

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Last Saturday, President Vladimir Putin signed the law allowing Russian prosecutors to brand media receiving funding from abroad as ‘foreign agents.’

On Monday this week, the Ministry of Justice included both Voice of America and Radio Liberty on the list of ‘foreign agents’, Ria Novosti reports.

Russian lawmakers argue they were forced to adopt the law in reciprocity to the U.S. move to include the America office of Russian state media Russia Today in its Foreign Agent Registration act.

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