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Russia's government says news media ‘foreign agents’ who don't comply with the law risk two years behind bars

Source: Meduza

Foreign media outlets recognized by Russia’s Justice Ministry as foreign agents can face criminal liability for refusing to fulfill the obligations of this status, State Duma deputy Evgeny Revenko stated on national television this Wednesday. The maximum penalty for such actions is two years in prison.

In the United States, foreign agents who willfully fail to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act face fines as high as $10,000 and up to five years in prison. According to a 2014 report by the Project on Government Oversight, however, the Justice Department relies on “voluntary compliance” for timely filing and the labeling of informational materials, leading to “rampant rule breaking.”

On November 15, the State Duma passed a law allowing the Justice Ministry to add foreign media outlets to Russia’s foreign agents registry, if the outlets are based outside Russia and receive funding from abroad. The law has been described as retaliation for the U.S. Justice Department forcing the American subsidiary of RT (Russia Today) to register as a foreign agent, which Russian officials have called an attack on free speech.