Russian president opens door for registry of foreign journalists

Russian President Vladimir Putin makes a speech while on a visit to North Korea in 2014. (Photo: Global Panorama/KoreaNet/Creative Commons)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a measure that could lead to the creation of a directory of foreign bloggers, journalists and social media users working in the country.

Under the measure, the Russian government can now force anyone who produces content for a media outlet, including social media companies, to register as foreign agents if they receive payment from a non-Russian company. This includes American journalists who work for newspapers, television networks and radio outlets.

The move comes more than two years after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) required journalists working for Russia-backed RT (formerly Russia Today) to register as foreign agents. The demand was in response to a January 2017 report that accused Russian operatives of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

Shortly after the report, the DOJ required RT journalists working in the United States to comply with Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) requirements. As a whole, the network was forced to register, which involved disclosing company financial information.

At the time, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan denied the network or its journalists were involved in any political malfeasance. Nonetheless, RT said it would comply with the FARA requirements.

Following the DOJ’s demand, the Russian government passed a similar law that subjected foreign journalists to additional government scrutiny, the Associated Press reported. The measure signed Monday was an extension of the law passed in 2017.

A report issued by Russian state media said the expansion of the 2017 law was necessary in order to give authorities the right to block websites, including those of foreign media outlets, when the government feels a violation of local law has occurred.

Prior to the 2017 law, Russia enacted a measure that allowed the government to closely monitor its own citizens who distribute information via blogs and on social networking websites. The so-called Blogger Law required anyone who distributes information via a website that has more than 3,000 daily readers to register their personal information in a government database.

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