Bloomberg News

Russia Mulls Targeting Foreign-Funded Media, Lawmaker Says

July 16, 2012

Russia will discuss extending a special status to foreign-funded media outlets whose coverage of international and Russian news may be dictated from abroad, according to one of two ruling-party lawmakers behind the plan.

The lower house of parliament, which last week approved restrictions on non-governmental organizations that receive financial aid from abroad, will discuss the proposal during its fall session, United Russia’s Ilya Kostunov said in a phone interview today from the central Russian city of Voronezh.

If the measure is approved in public and parliamentary discussions, foreign-funded media may be branded “foreign agents,” a classification that can already be applied to NGOs, Kostunov said. He cited misleading reports and photographs published without a “second opinion or reaction from the Russian side” as examples of skewed coverage where the reader would benefit from knowing the financial interests at stake.

The Russian government pushed three laws through the State Duma last week, tightening controls over the Internet and foreign-funded NGOs engaged in political activities and making libel a criminal offense. Lawmakers allied with President Vladimir Putin approved a bill last month that increased fines 150-fold to 300,000 rubles ($9,200) on people who organize or take part in unsanctioned protests.

Putin, 59, was re-elected to the Kremlin in March after confronting the biggest anti-government rallies in his 12 years in power.

“We want our people to know who is funding the so-called fourth estate,” Kostunov said. “Of course we should be flexible while branding these media. Newspapers that write about kittens are different from those writing about earthquakes.”

The initiative was prompted by complaints made to lawmakers by Russian journalists, he said, adding that a final proposal will be made after a discussion involving the Russian Union of Journalists.

“Foreign media investors are very active in Russia, but it’s mostly about glossy magazines and not political media outlets,” Mikhail Fedotov, Putin’s adviser on human rights, said by phone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at

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