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Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, is seen in Moscow on April 17, 2019. The State Duma recently passed legislation that would add individual journalists and bloggers to the country’s list of “foreign agents.” (Reuters/Sputnik/Alexander Astafyev)

CPJ joins call for Russian government to drop foreign agent bill

By Gulnoza Said/CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator on November 18, 2019 2:38 PM ET

The Committee to Protect Journalists today joined nine other international press freedom organizations in signing a statement urging Russia to drop draft legislation that would add individual journalists and bloggers to the country’s list of “foreign agents.”

On November 13, the Information and Communication Committee of the Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, approved in the second reading legislation that would allow authorities to label individuals as foreign agents, a category now reserved for media outlets and nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from foreign sources, according to media reports.

Under the draft legislation, published on the Duma’s website, individual writers and bloggers, including foreigners and Russians living outside the country, who receive funding from organizations labeled as foreign agents by the Justice Ministry will be required to register as foreign agents themselves, go through an annual financial audit, submit reports about their work to the Justice Ministry, and put a “foreign agent” label on all content they publish.

The legislation passed its first reading in the State Duma in 2018, as CPJ reported at the time. It could be enacted by the end of this year if it passes the Federation Council (parliament’s upper house), and is signed by the president, according to the Duma’s website.

CPJ and other signatories of the statement, led by Article 19, expressed concern that, if adopted, the bill will have a detrimental impact on the already restrictive environment for independent journalism in Russia.

The full statement can be read here.

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