Russia's Putin signs 'foreign agents' media law

Vladimir Putin talks with Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi Russia

Vladimir Putin talks with Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir during their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi Russia

File Picture: U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation that empowers the government to designate media outlets receiving funding from overseas as "foreign agents" and impose sanctions against them.

Putin signed the bill into law Saturday after the upper chamber of the Russian parliament adopted it Wednesday.

Voice of America and the Russia-based outlets run by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, all of which are funded by the USA government, will likely be the first US organizations to face the designation, as Russian lawmakers had already been threatening to do following the RT news.

Russian officials have called the new legislation a "symmetrical response" to what they describe as USA pressure on Russian media.

The worldwide rights organization Amnesty global has said the legislation would deal a "serious blow" to media freedom in Russia, although Russian officials have said it would not apply to domestic media.

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The U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were among those on the list.

While the U.S. Justice Department's requirement for RT to register as a foreign agent is largely formal, requiring little more than registering and maintaining accurate records, Russia's icy leader has taken offence and is unamused.

Russian officials repeatedly stated that the measure was a tit-for-tat response after the United States made a similar move targeting Russia's foreign broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today, and the Sputnik news agency.

Exactly how (or if) these dueling "foreign agent" designations will actually affect news outlets operating in the US or Russian Federation is not yet clear.

USA intelligence officials have accused the Kremlin of using Russian media sources to interfere in the presidential election.

Putin's spokesman says the US hampers the Russian news outlets' operation in violation of media freedom, "actions on the basis of the principle of reciprocity can't be excluded".

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