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Russian lawmakers adopt legislation imposing massively higher fines on violations by ‘foreign agent’ news media

The State Duma has adopted the third and final draft of legislation that imposes fines as high as 5 million rubles ($78,300) for repeated violations of Russia’s media laws pertaining to “foreign agents.” 

First-time offenses carry smaller penalties: “foreign agent” news outlets will face fines as high as 1 million rubles ($15,660) and individual “foreign agents” could be forced to pay as much as 10,000 rubles ($155). The new penalties should take effect on February 1, 2020.

Russia’s “foreign agent” media law has been in force since 2017. The legislation gives the Justice Ministry the power to slap the designation on any media outlet that receives financing from abroad. As of early December 2019, Moscow designated nine publications as foreign agents: Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Current Time, Azatliq Radiosi, Siber: Realii, Idel: Realii, Polygraph, Kavkaz: Realii, and Krym: Realii. All these publications receive funding from the U.S. government, mostly through the Agency for Global Media, formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

In late November, Russia adopted new legislation expanding the Justice Ministry's authority, allowing it to designate individuals (including bloggers) with income from abroad as foreign agents.

Earlier this fall, Russia’s Justice Ministry designated the Anti-Corruption Foundation, an organization created by opposition politician Alexey Navalny, as a foreign agent, after discovering donations from abroad.

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