The Russian State Duma voted 414-0 on Wednesday to pass legislation allowing authorities to force any foreign media organization to register as a "foreign agent" under penalty of fines or a possible ban on operations in Russia.
The measures were introduced in response to a move by the U.S. Department of Justice to force RT America, linked to the Kremlin-backed RT, to register as a "foreign agent" after U.S. intelligence officials accused Russian Federation of seeking to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The bill serves as an amendment to the 2012 law that forced NGOs to adopt a "foreign agent" label if they receive funding from overseas.
It now needs the approval of the upper house and President Vladimir Putin before becoming law.
USA intelligence agencies have alleged that RT served as a tool for the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.
He denied it will affect any Russian media with foreign funding.
The Russian bill would allow the government to mirror the United States demands, said the chairman of the Duma committee for information, Leonid Levin.
"I would like to hope that it will only be used once and there will be no need for more retaliatory action", he added.
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To the editor: I thought I had heard everything until I read that our president believed Putin over his own intelligence agencies. A special counsel and several congressional committees are investigating whether his campaign colluded with Moscow.
"They forced us to take these measures", he said.
The media outlets singled out as foreign agents will face requirements now applied to foreign-funded non-governmental organisations under a 2012 law.
A Russian law adopted in 2012 forces NGOs that have worldwide funding and whose activities are deemed "political" to undergo intensive scrutiny of their finances and staffing and label themselves as "foreign agents" on paperwork and statements.
The move is likely to effect the Russian services of major global media outlets such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
"This legislation strikes a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russian Federation".
These media will have to declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing while all published materials, including on their websites and social media, must be marked as coming from a "foreign agent".
The German government also strongly criticized the legislation. "We think it is completely unacceptable if German and European media are - as a outcome of a Russian-American controversy - to be subjected to restrictions which. go against global obligations that we took together".
"Ultimately a lot will depend on how exactly the law is implemented and to what extent it restricts foreign media's ability to act", he said.