The State Duma committee to investigate foreign political interference has agreed to examine stories published by several news outlets based abroad for potential violations of Russian laws. Lawmakers will target reporting by the BBC Russian Service, MBK Media, Voice of America, Radio Svoboda, Current Time, and Meduza. It’s not yet clear what reports the committee intends to review.
Committee members also accused Deutsche Welle of breaking several Russian laws by urging its Twitter followers to attend an unpermitted protest in Moscow on July 27. The lawmakers also say other DW reports, including a story about the North Caucasus, may have violated laws against extremism.
The committee is sending the flagged reports to four different police agencies (the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, Roskomnadzor, and the Attorney General’s Office) to determine appropriate responses. Lawmakers also say they will reach out to the Justice Department to add DW to Russia’s list of “foreign agents.”
The State Duma established its foreign-interference committee in August 2019, at the high point of Moscow’s summer protests against election officials’ refusal to register dozens of independent candidates.
At the time, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that it suspected foreign embassies as well as media sources based outside Russia of political interference “in connection with their coverage of unpermitted protests.” Tweets by DW and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow were known to be under the committee’s investigation. The body also accused Facebook and Google of airing political advertisements in the embargo period immediately before the election.