Russian parliament’s lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved in the last reading a bill that envisages fines for those violating the country’s controversial law on “foreign agents.”
First passed in 2012 and expanded several times since, the law gives authorities the power to brand nongovernmental organizations, human rights groups, news media, and individuals working for organizations deemed to receive foreign funding for political activity as a “foreign agent,” a label that carries pejorative Soviet-era connotations.
The law subjects these organizations and individuals to bureaucratic scrutiny and spot checks and requires them to attach the “foreign agent” label to their publications. They must also report on their spending and funding.
According to the bill approved by lawmakers on February 16, failure to attach the “foreign agent” label could lead to fines of up to 2,500 rubles ($34) for individuals and up to 500,000 rubles ($6,800) for entities.
In addition, organizations branded as “foreign agents” and working without being registered as such could face fines of up to 5 million rubles ($68,000).
The bill will come into force after parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council, approves it and President Vladimir Putin signs it into law.
The law, among other things, requires certain news organizations that receive foreign funding, including RFE/RL, to label content within Russia as being produced by a “foreign agent.”
Since early in Vladimir Putin’s presidency, the Kremlin has steadily tightened the screws on independent media. The country is ranked 149th out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders.